What a great idea: Children are writing their own novels. When Lily Jones taught first grade she would tell her students that they would be doing something amazing, “This year you’re going to do something that most adults will never do in their whole lives.”
Her kids would look a bit scared. “We’re going to write novels!” she’d tell them excitedly. And her excitement was infectious, “I’d overhear them saying to random adults, “Have you written a novel before? Well I’m going to!”
These awesome kids would participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and they were tasked to write a whole book in month of November. Here is what Ms Jones had to say about this huge undertaking:
When I first started thinking about having first graders write novels, I didn’t know if they could do it. But I found that conquering a huge writing project helped my students to become excited about writing and to see themselves as writers, two effects that paid off all year long.
For adults, the writing goals of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel (which breaks down to about 1667 words per day, a number I have etched in my brain from the two times I completed NaNoWriMo). For kids, the word count goal is flexible. With my first graders, we decided on a collaborative goal of 5000 words. This meant that all the writing students did individually counted towards one class word count goal.
Here are some other ways to help your students find success:
Get Ready for Writing: Though some students got fixated on the idea of writing 5000 words, I tried not to stress the word count. Instead we just worked on writing, writing, writing. As we approached November, we talked about what makes a novel a novel (chapters, fiction, characters, etc.) and analyzed the novels we had read as a class.
In order to prepare students for the frenzy of writing that would take place in November, we spent the last few days of October making plans for our novels. I had students draw several possible ideas for their stories, sketch out characters, and give each other feedback. This is the first step when children are writing their own novels.