It’s Monday. For the first time this school year, I missed a self-imposed deadline. My Sunday Night Prep series is going to be at least one day late. By the time I finish writing this post, it might be two or three days overdue. It’s a good thing I am a solo act on this learning space.
Last year, I started off on an unplanned adventure. I wasn’t very good at planning lessons, and most of my ideas were just that- big ideas. But I was fortunate enough to work side-by-side two curriculum guru’s and lesson planning wonks. Through their steady guidance, I learned to craft lessons and expand ideas into units. The format for this syllabus comes from Josh Zimmers. Hire him if you have any educational consulting needs. He gets great things done! I saw Matt Cutts TED Talk in the Spring of 2011. In it, he talks about really cool month long adventures people can go on to change their lives. One adventure is to write a novel in a month. That’s right, a 50,000 word, real deal novel in a month. Little did I know the background or cult/community surrounding National Novel Writing Month, abbreviated NaNoWriMo and hashtagged #NaNoWriMo on Twitter.
The start of last school year was furious. Opening a charter school is pure insanity. Needless to say, my planning for a #NaNoWriMo seminar last year was incomplete at best. I showed up with energy and big ideas. The students really did the work. Two of the eleven students actually finished an entire 50,000 word novel. Eleven eighth grade girls volunteered for the month long project. The word count ranged from 1,500 words to 55,000. What I didn’t plan for, was the actual writing that I needed to do to participate. Writing 1,667 words per day takes time. This was an independent project; meaning, I got the group of writers together at the beginning and turned the entire project over to the individual students. One student who had done the challenge before emerged as the leader for the entire school. I didn’t do a good job of building community. I did an even poorer job of celebrating milestones and tracking student progress. My highlight of #NaNoWriMo 2011 was a student organized write-in held at our school. A half dozen writers from the Fox Valley community came to the school on a Sunday night to write. It was awesome to see the students work turn into something positive for the school and community.
That was last year.
I finished my novel.
I killed the matriarch at the 50,200 word mark.
I had to be done.
This year is different.
I’ve been planning since mid-July. I’ve been harvesting like crazy (harvesting = teachers stealing freely from each other to improve practice. I first heard this term from Peter Wieczorek, Director of Northwest Passage High School in Coon Rapids, MN. I’ve harvested the term). I actually like the syllabus I’ve put together. Please harvest away. Two weeks from today, we’ll begin. I’ll be facilitating this seminar. We have a node created on the Young Writer’s Program of the NaNoWriMo website. Over the next few days, I’ll be cleaning up the class page and my site profile. Anyone in the world is invited to join this seminar. If you want to earn 1.0 credit of English, I will gladly add you to our group project on Project Foundry.
Ian Randall Wilson documents a practice he dubs, “Writeshop.” In Writeshop, the emphasis is on writing, just flat out writing. This seminar will have 15 Writeshops over the month. Students are also required to attend at least 3 “write-ins.” Write-ins are evening or weekend writing sessions. They are usually held at coffee shops, libraries, or other cool- chill places. My ulterior motive for having students attend write-ins is to get them out in the community. We as educators need to foster cross-generational relationships and not fear them. Parents of students in the seminar will get a letter home explaining my rationale for requiring write-ins and boiling down the syllabus.
There are two items still fuzzy in regards to #NaNoWriMo this year. They are:
1.Standardized Testing – The WKCE‘s suck. They do not measure learning, but they must be taken. They throw a ginormous wrench into the writing cycle and Writeshops. For four days during the month of November, the entire school schedule is cattywampus to make do with the standardized assessment. We will make it work.
2.Assessment – I want to do a holistic assessment. I want assessment to be a dialog; rather than just informational. I’m not concerned with students improving their grammar or quality of writing (that’s not practical with the month long writing quest); rather, I really really want to assess students perseverance, sticktoitiveness, and ability to support other learners on their quest. Setting an accurate goal during the first week is key. Do students go for the 50,000 word mark when they’ve never written more than a 500 word assignment? Or does the struggling writer plod on to finish their 20,000? If someone has a killer rubric, please share. Otherwise, I’m planning on personalizing assessment and having students blog about their journey. Project Foundry has a beautiful “Project Reflection” metric, and I’m asking students to log time each day.
Do we write together?
Do we get each other better?
Do we create opportunities for learning?
Do we celebrate the small things?
Do we reach our goal?
Those are the larger questions I hope to be a part of.
Currently, I have thirteen students signed up for the seminar. They all attend my school. If there are others who would like to join (regardless of age); I will open up a course on P2PU, and we’ll get better. My school has a ridiculously expensive Polycon system. We also have two wonderful 27″ iMac’s that are Google Hangoutable. Let’s make this happen!
One other side note: www.nanowrimo.org is awesome! I bought a class set of pins and a poster to chart word counts. Then, the company refunded the $10 I spent for shipping! This is such a cool challenge and I feel gratitude for actually being able to facilitate it again this year. I’m struggling with noveling ideas and characters, but that’s why I’m keeping my design journal close to the hip these days.
Anyone have protagonist names they’d like to share?
Time to harvest…