8th Graders Writing a Novel?

Two videos explore what happens when a middle school teacher challenges her students to write a novel in just one month.

March 2, 2017

Laura Bradley, a middle school English teacher with three decades of experience, challenges her eighth-grade students to write a complete novel during National Novel Writing Month. Her inspiration for taking up this tough exercise came from her own education in literacy: lots of spelling and grammar, and “not a lot of writing that I felt ownership over.” NaNoWriMo, as a project-based learning unit, allows Bradley to teach the fundamentals of plot, character, and setting, for example, by having the young writers plan out and develop their own story elements—instead of merely identifying them in existing literary works. Bradley didn’t conceive of the project in a vacuum: She relies heavily on the Young Writer’s Program of NaNoWriMo for tips and resources to support students and teachers. The site covers topics such as perseverance, writing advice, and the ways in which the project meets Common Core standards. Bradley has written about NaNoWriMo for Edutopia in the past, and you can learn more about her at her blog and Twitter feed.

Laura Bradley’s eighth-grade students at Kenilworth Junior High in Petaluma, California, tackle the challenge of National Novel Writing Month: an effort to write, in the course of the 30 days of November, a substantive, complete novel. The students’ initial reaction? One young writer explains that she thought tasks this serious “were only for adults,” and another confesses that his teacher was asking for “a pretty fat book—and writing that much seems pretty impossible.” The scope of the resulting plots is impressive, ranging from an escape from an island to “a corrupt government that went too far,” and the kids seem almost surprised by their success. You can read more about NaNoWriMo in Edutopia posts written by Bradley here and here.

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  • Literacy
  • English Language Arts
  • 6-8 Middle School

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