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Showcasing Lisa Corey and "NaNoWriMo"


Tenth grade English teacher Lisa K. Corey of Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York, stumbled across the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Web site while searching for interesting lesson plan ideas. This "novel" approach to writing invites participants to create a 50,000-word narrative in the month of November. It places emphasis on quantity, not quality, in order to help inexperienced writers put aside their fears and start to write. Many teachers now are applying the NaNoWriMo approach to the classroom.

"Last year was the first time I used NaNoWriMo in my classes," Corey told Education World. "Rather than ask students to devote the entire month to writing as a required activity, I offered it as an extra credit or grade-change assignment.

Of her 150 students, about 80 elected to participate. Fewer actually submitted their compositions for Corey's review, but the effort and originality in those works impressed the teacher.

"I'm used to hearing, 'No way! That's too much!' when I tell my students they need to write a 225-word essay on their June exam, so it was wonderful to see how many of them wrote several thousand words!" said Corey. "My highest student word count was approximately 20,000."

Although some educators might find it difficult to abandon "scheduled curriculum" in lieu of an entire month of writing, Corey argues that NaNoWriMo is "scheduled curriculum" and a worthy endeavor.

"All English language arts teachers are required, as part of the curriculum, to help students better their writing skills," she explained. "What better way could there be to attack everything -- from capitalization and paragraphing to development and conversation writing -- than through a novel-writing challenge? It's a wonderful opportunity for students to write creatively while still addressing all the grammatical issues we face on a daily basis."

With her students' needs in mind, Corey feels it's unlikely she'll present NaNoWriMo as a requirement in the future, but she's certain that her use of the event as an optional assignment will continue for a long time.

She advises teachers who are new to the program to:

  • Write with their students.
  • Encourage students to get together for writing circles outside of school.
  • Discuss their personal writing process with students. Include everything from the type of paper you prefer to the type of writing utensil you use most often -- anything that makes the process solid for them.
  • Offer incentives.
  • Make deadlines attainable.

"This year I even plan to offer the NaNoWriMo experience to our faculty!" Corey added. She will begin writing teaser announcements in mid-October.

For more information about National Novel Writing Month, visit the Web site.
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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
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