5 Reasons to Bring NaNoWriMo to Your Classroom
On your marks, get set, write! Every November, thousands of people across the world sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a community-driven creative writing marathon. The premise is simple yet ambitious: participants must write a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. While the project has since blossomed from a mere 21 writers in 1999 to a staggering 427,653 “Wrimos” in 2021, participation has grown and changed in more ways than one. Since NaNoWriMo expanded to include a Young Writers Program, more and more teachers have been using the challenge as a teaching tool.
Because 50,000 words is a lofty number for anyone, let alone a young writer, students can set a personalized word-count goal to strive for over the month. Teachers can also set up online communities to track student progress and help them stay connected. With these support systems in place, students can unleash their creative potential and let their imaginations run wild.
Benefits of Incorporating NaNoWriMo in the Classroom
While the most tangible reward for completing NaNoWriMo is, of course, a novel, the benefits extend far beyond the writing itself. Here are five major reasons why NaNoWriMo has stormed classrooms worldwide:
Countless students struggle with writing, not for a lack of skills, but a lack of confidence. That’s where NaNoWriMo steps in. NaNoWriMo’s rapid pace and focus on “quantity over quality” allows writers to set aside their inner critic and focus solely on putting pen to paper. As a result, students spend more time writing and less time second-guessing themselves. After all, the goal of using NaNoWriMo in the classroom isn’t to write the next Harry Potter but to ease students into writing freely without self-doubt. At the end of November, students can gain a sense of pride and accomplishment by overcoming self-doubt.
Strengthens Writing Skills
It’s a common misconception that writing is an innate talent; in reality, writing is a skill that must be practiced and refined like any other. However, most students do not receive nearly enough writing time in the classroom. While experts recommend spending 30 minutes on writing per day, studies show that only 25% of middle schoolers and 31% of high schoolers meet this standard. This data suggests that many schools have put writing on the back burner, leading to low writing confidence and proficiency among students. With that in mind, students who practice writing every day for NaNoWriMo may find their skills have improved at the end of the month. NaNoWriMo is also a good opportunity not just for student freewriting, but for teachers to try out some research-based strategies for teaching writing.
Builds a Foundation of Discipline
NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart — it’s a commitment that requires time and effort every day. That’s 1,667 words daily if you commit to the 50,000-word manuscript! While young writers probably won’t be cranking out 50,000 words in a mere 30 days, smaller goals are equally beneficial in building up student discipline. NaNoWriMo can help students to practice their SMART goal-setting, planning, and time-management skills. Combined with a dash of prioritization and a sprinkle of willpower, students can gain experience working towards and achieving goals with long deadlines.
Fosters Connections with Fellow Writers
While many think of writing as a solo task, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, many teachers encourage peer review and discussion to boost student confidence, critical thinking, and self-reflection. NaNoWriMo is a golden opportunity for collaborative writing, transforming a solitary task into one of solidarity. Not only will students be able to collaborate with peers in their classroom, but they’ll also have access to an entire community of young NaNoWriMo writers online. To take this a step further, teachers should consider taking up NaNoWriMo alongside their students. Not only will this strengthen the classroom writing community, but students will see that the writing journey doesn’t stop after childhood. Rather, it continues into adulthood and beyond.
Ignites a Passion for Writing
There are countless roadblocks that curb our ability to write freely and confidently — self-doubt, perfectionism, indecision — the list goes on and on. By dedicating time to sit and write uninhibited, many students discover a love for the craft that stretches far beyond the month of November. Older students might reignite a passion they thought was lost to waxing academic pressure and waning time to write. In fact, countless Wrimos find themselves continuing their works past the end of the challenge, with some even turning their drafts into published best-sellers. Ultimately though, NaNoWriMo is not about what you write, so much that you have written something. Students of all skill levels can benefit from the personalized goal setting and writing practice effected by NaNoWriMo.
Looking for more ways to incorporate writing in the classroom? Check out these free writing resources:
For more on teaching writing in PreK-12 classrooms, see:
What’s Next for the Science of Reading: Focus on the Science of Writing
A Look at Reading-Writing Connections