It is September once again, and soon November will be upon us. For millions of people around the world that can only mean one thing - National Novel Writing Month! Known as NaNoWriMo, it is a month long challenge to write 50 000 words of that novel you have always dreamed about. What is not as well known, however, is its partnership program, the Young Writer’s Program (YWP).
The YWP also runs during November, and is a challenge for people under 18 to write as many words as possible. They choose their own word count goal depending on how fast they can write and what a reasonable challenge would be. You ‘win’ NaNoWriMo and the YWP by achieving your goal. It doesn’t matter if it is the world’s most brilliant novel, or if you got stuck half way through and needed to add purple ninjas and pet zombies to get it going again, you win simply by writing.
You may ask, what is the point of students just writing nonsense? Wouldn’t they be better off writing less but have quality writing? The beauty of NaNoWriMo and the YWP is that it encourages everyone to write. It stops the writer’s block that occurs in so many children and adults when faced with the prospect of having to write well. The ideas is that you write first and ask questions later. You can always go back and edit what you have written, but you cannot edit a blank page.
I ran the YWP in my classroom and as a lunch time club at my school last year and plan on running it again this year. It is an amazing experience. You have students who dislike writing suddenly writing pages and pages, and students who love writing planning extraordinary plots and characters. It completely changed how writing was viewed as a subject in my classroom. It was suddenly exciting and something to look forward to. It did not matter if a student did not have the neatest handwriting, or if they chose the most perfect words, so they could just enjoy the process of writing.
The second brilliant thing about the YWP is their school support. You can sign up as a teacher and they will send you a pack of YWP goodies to inspire students. They also have a ‘dare machine’ to give students who are stuck ideas, an educational community and even lesson plans for including noveling in your classroom! There is also a community for students to join where they can talk to like minded people, whether that be about romance novels or how many zombies it would take to break into the CIA.
Next month I will be starting to talk about NaNoWriMo in my classroom, and lighting the sparks that will hopefully become a flame of passion for writing. You students will thank you if you do to.
How do you inspire your students to love writing? Have you or your class participated in the YWP or NaNoWriMo before?
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, erichhh.