Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program

Wildly engaging contest turns students into novelists in 30 days

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (6 Reviews)
5

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5 images

Pros: The light tone and fun activities ensure the novel-writing process isn't intimidating at all.

Cons: Every month should be National Novel Writing Month!

Bottom Line: A thoughtful adaptation of the famous and fun grown-up novel writing contest, NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is brimming with advice and encouragement as well as classroom support.

Want to create an entire class of accomplished novel writers? It seems crazy, but NaNoWriMo gives teachers the tools to achieve this goal with their classroom-ready resources that can instill real writing confidence in students. So how do you make it work? As a homework assignment, students can complete a chapter or page per night, then come to class and update their word counts. The sense of accomplishment outweighs the quality of writing (which is better dealt with in revision anyway), and NaNoWriMo offers foolproof ways to keep students motivated and inspired. Writing can also take place during class time and can coincide with daily lessons on language and structure. Teachers can create virtual classrooms to track writing and encourage their students. The site also offers fun writing challenges to get the creative process flowing. When the month is over, students are likely to feel excited and inspired to revisit their creations through revision. Check out the "Now What?" section for help with this.

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NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is an adaptation of the National Novel Writing Month program for kid and teen writers in classrooms (or even at home). Young writers accept the challenge to complete a novel in the official NaNoWriMo month of November, or at various times throughout the year. It's structured like a contest or challenge, but everyone who finishes wins. Students choose their word count at the beginning, write their novel either within the website or their favorite writing tools, then update their word count online throughout the month. They can share their ideas and questions in the virtual classroom and participate in writing challenges. The site also provides extensive resources and admin tools to help motivate and encourage the young novelists. 

While in beta at the time of this review, the site is simply outstanding. The front page features fun writing activities that can be pursued within a novel or on their own, including the Dare Machine, a prompt creator that dares students to complete tasks like "Make one of your characters fall in love with the villain." Turning the huge task of writing a novel -- something that even most adults are intimidated by -- into a fun and achievable challenge really works here. The folks behind NaNoWriMo are writers who understand the process and break it down beautifully for students.

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The formula is simple: Students sign up for a profile or join a Virtual Classroom, then begin their novel and update the word count online daily. Students get to make tons of choices on the site: what they want to write about, how long their novel should be, or whether to take a break and chat about video games in the Forums (even kid writers need to blow off steam!). Writer resources allow users to go deeper into the writing process, and students can even get guidance by using one of the site's "100% Non-Boring Workbooks," featuring imagination-sparking activities. By sharing work with Writing Buddies, students can get feedback and will also see how other students are tackling writing challenges. Forums and profile content are moderated, and the site is extremely kid-safe.

Brainstorming, writing skills, and perseverance converge here. Students not only learn writing techniques and structure but also get a true taste of the writing life as they work toward meeting their goal: a completed novel. With the 30-day time limit, students will have to do some time management and also let their imaginations go wild as they don't have any extra time to self-edit or doubt themselves.

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Overall Rating
5

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Once students get started, most will get sucked into the challenge. If they're already strong writers, great, but even non-writers should have fun trying. The site's interface is cute and clean.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
5

The main focus? Letting the words flow. Still,there are many resources students can use to improve quality and structure. Students will also gain confidence in a writing process they can use again and again.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

There's a an array of high-quality, useful workbooks, lessons, guides, badges, and even famous author "pep talks" for students and teachers. There's also completed novels to read, and progress-tracking.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

5
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Featured review by
Miriam K. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Cornell Elementary School
Coraopolis, PA
5
Amazing Resources

I LOVED all of the resources this sit has to offer. I did not love the fact that the only way I could add students to my online group was to have them register individually with an email. A lot of my 5th/6th graders do not have email addresses. While I will definitely use this website again with my high school students, I will only use the resources from this website with the younger students.

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