Authentic Writing – YWP and NaNo

It’s been a while since I took the time to write. I have been swamped since I decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge with a few of my Grade 8s.



Our school recently switched to a linear Humanities in Grade 8. Because I get the students all year for English and Social Studies, I felt that the class time I would devote to the project would be worth it. I wanted them to commit to trying to write (almost) everyday, figure out a word count goal for the month and then experience the process of sticking to it. Four students agreed to the challenge, although a few others were tempted.

The rest of the class carried on with our usual routines and work, although I planned content that would allow me to teach mini-writing lessons. I delivered a short story unit and assigned a creative writing project for the whole class. The “Nanos” would stick around for writing lessons, or pick up homework they would do at home and then go find a computer in the library or lab.

Here is the link to the Young Writer’s Project. There are some great writing resources and lesson plans here. There are tons of resources if you plan to bring the whole class along for the ride.

Next time I would plan a smoother set of lessons. I wasn’t entirely happy with the flow, but we aren’t done yet. Regardless, the project was worth it. Two students decided to co-author a novel based in the Middle Ages. Each of them took a character to write. Another student is working on a dystopia. and another is writing a zombie story. They will continue to work on the writing for the rest of the year.

I decided to take the challenge, too, although it was a very last minute decision. Teaching does not afford a lot of extra time and while the young writer’s can set their own word goal, mine was pre-set at 50 000. But, if not this year, then when? Sometimes you just have to leap. So I leapt. Creative writing is something that I usually do in small bits, mainly for modelling a strategy or genre in class, but I never really tried to do it in a serious way.

We felt pushed, and like we were doing something real. We were able to cheer each other on, and talk like ‘real writers’. They are pumped for next year!

My idea was that I could share my writing with them, however, I was not really able to pause long enough to think about what and how. Now that the challenge is over, I can pull some pieces and get them to help me make them better.

I have ordered us t-shirts. We are recovering from the hard work and have set aside our writing for now, but we’ll get back to it and see where it leads the rest of the year.

As far as authentic learning, for authentic audiences, this one is a keeper!


2 thoughts on “Authentic Writing – YWP and NaNo

  1. This is a very interesting post! I like how you made it an option for students to get involved, but still planned something meaningful for the students that were not involved. Getting involved yourself was terrific! I think that we can really model a lot for our students, and I’m sure that students appreciated that you were entering the contest as well.

    I know that you mentioned that only a handful of students entered. Were you surprised by the result? Did you encourage other students to enter, or would you choose to encourage others if you decide to enter this contest again? I’m curious to hear!


    • Hi, Aviva, thanks for commenting. Because this was the first time I tried this, I wanted to have only the very committed write this time around. Because I was sending students to the lab, or library, I also had to know that the students I sent off were going to make use of their time. I think next time (always depending on the group of course), I could encourage more students to engage the project. I would also begin earlier with the mini-lessons, and getting students set to write.

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