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Eighth Graders Embrace the Art of Writing Novels for NaNoWriMo

4 students writing at square tableReady, set, write! It is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, and eighth graders at Somers Middle School are working towards writing 7,500 words each for the month of November. Under the guidance of the eighth grade ELA team of Kirstin Reynolds, Tricia Baldes, and Catherine Jelinek, students will spend 30 days and roughly 720 minutes writing their novels in class and at home.

“Kids are writing with word counts in mind,” Baldes said, adding that class time often includes some type of timed writing activity like Word Sprints or other tools and challenges available to them through NaNoWriMo.

 students writing on floorStudents looked at books they have read, movies they have seen, stories from their own lives, and stories that need to be told.

“It’s about writing what they know. They like being risk takers in making their choice in genre for an authentic experience,” Baldes said. Students had choice in any genre that was inspiring -- mystery, romance, dystopian, science fiction and many more.

Students are using EdPuzzles at home on various writing topics like narrative, showing not telling, characters, plots, scenes, and dialogue prior to writing in class. Other times, their teachers will inspire them with a video talk of some favorite authors. But when they get to ELA class, it’s all about writing -- at their desks, on the floor, alone, or with a friend.

“Goal setting is motivating for them,” Reynolds said. “There is a big emphasis on getting students engaged in this experience. It reframes their sense of who they are as writers. They write more than they ever thought they could.”

Student Aidan Kimmell said he likes the choice that goes with the NaNoWriMo project and thinks the whole experience will be beneficial to him as a writer. “I am not restricted by genre so I can write what I like,” he said. “The goals, both personal daily writing goals and those for the whole month, will keep us on track. I think this will make me a better writer.”

Isabella Wissa, who is writing a mystery/realistic fiction novel, is enjoying writing every day. “It’s something different,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like school work. It is not stressful but fun,” she said.

NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that encourages people to write for the month of November. In the classroom, NaNoWriMo Young Writers encourages educators to join the writing and provides the necessary tools, community, and encouragement to set goals and succeed in the month-long creative writing marathon. NaNoWriMo was incorporated into the ELA program at Somers Middle School in 2016.


two students at table with computer