Project-Based Learning (PBL)

How to Get Kids to Write a Book

Tips on getting the most out of National Novel Writing Month.

January 28, 2009

This how-to article accompanies the feature "A School-for-Scribes Program Turns Kids into Novelists."

You're only a few clicks away from launching your students into the literary life. Follow these steps to participate in National Novel Writing Month:

  • Go to the NaNoWriMo Young Writer's Program site, hit the Sign Up Now button, and register as an educator. A bright orange button will appear that reads "Teacher's Lounge." Examine the curriculum and order your free noveling kit. (Interested in teacher testimonials? Click to the YWP Media Page, under the About tab.)
  • Visit the Teacher's Lounge forums to see what teachers are saying, and connect with them to swap lesson plans. Go to the Counselor's Office to confer with peers (perhaps about that kid with the iPod fused to his ears).
  • During much of the year, the Web site lies nearly dormant, coming to life in the early fall. Sign up anytime, but don't expect your free kit to arrive until September.
  • You'll receive a handsome poster suitable for framing or at least taping to the wall, a progress chart with room for the name of each student, and stickers and novelist buttons.
  • Kids with Internet access can sign up individually, though that's not necessary. Those who do can build their own profile, track individual word counts, and upload their novel or excerpts of it.
  • For schools without computers, NaNoWriMo has 100 loaner word processors they can send to users.
  • You can access workbooks for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Teaching students about outlining, character, plot, setting, and dialogue is done in October. Worksheets can be printed, and each has a corresponding lesson plan. The workbooks are good, and there's no rule that adult writers can't use them.
  • On the first school day of November, students are primed to begin. Each knows how many words he or she must produce each day to complete a novel. Figure to spend one class period for noveling every day. Older students are expected to write at home, too, perhaps 500 words a night.

Tavia Stewart, director of the Young Writers Program, strongly recommends a Thank Goodness It's Over party at the end of the month to congratulate the kids and hand out certificates teachers can download and copy. Pizza helps, too. She suggests inviting parents as well. In addition, teachers can contact local bookstores and arrange for their young novelists to give readings.

Carol Pogash writes frequently for Edutopia and the New York Times.

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