Since November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) teachers are working with kids preparing for the 2014 Young Writers Project which is part of the event. For many years, NaNoWriMo has issued the challenge to writers to write a novel in 30 days. The challenge begins on November 1, and ends at midnight on November 30.
Students and adult writers are encouraged to “lock away their inner editor and let their imaginations take over”. For adults, the minimum word count is 50,000 words during the month. For the students in the Young Writers Program the writers under the age of 17 have smaller word goals. But it is formidable.
One hundred fifth grade children in four classes at Hunters Woods Elementary School in Reston Virginia are ready to take the challenge. They are now engaged during October in pre writing activities. According to Hunters Woods teacher Amanda Shopa, the pre writing stage is just as important as the actual writing. Shopa has pioneered the YWP at her previous school, and now with support from the administration and teachers at Hunters Woods she has recreated the program.
Students pledge their word count, and track their progress on the NaNoWriMo website. Here they find tips, resources, and can connect with other students for help and for encouragement and ideas. “The pre-writing time is when we plan, brain storm plot ideas, learn about the elements of good storytelling, set goals, find resources and really help each other out,” said Shopa. “The whole project from start to finish is an amazing educational opportunity to learn and practice a lot of different skills.”
Shopa has introduced the pre writing phase of the challenge by inviting a published author, Terry Catasus Jennings, to give the young writers encouragement and some guidelines. Jennings is an award winning author of children’s non fiction and fact based fiction. She started the students on their project with a talk about how to write the first draft. She writes for the Washington Post, The Reston Connection, and Ranger Rick. She also contributes to the Smithsonian Institute and the National Academies Science and Technology for Children and Science Technology Concepts series