Workshop on NaNoWriMo in the Classroom

Borinquen Writing Project Workshop

Prepared and presented by:  Gloria M. Custodio, high school English teacher, Colegio Puertorriqueño de Niñas

Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 

Title: “I’m a wrimo — who are you? Are you a wrimo too?” Implementing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in the Secondary School English Classroom

Length: 1 hour presentation. The 3.5 hour version would include how to adapt the NaNoWriMo activities from primary school all the way up to the college level.

Abstract:  In this presentation, we will explore how students can develop into better, more fluent, more confident writers by becoming novelists.

Purpose: Show teachers that yes, students can (and should) write novels!

Theoretical  background:

This activity is connected to the ideas of these educators and experts on writing instruction:

  • Elbow – messiness; process writing; unbridled creativity
  • Graves – write with your students; create a community of novelists who support each other 



Each participating student and teacher:

  • Writes the draft of a novel within one month.
  • Uses new vocabulary.
  • Explores figurative language.
  • Applies the elements of literature (plot, character, theme, conflict, etc.) to create an original novel.

Study and life skills

Each student and teacher:

  • Practices effective goal setting and time management by planning and dividing the month-long project into manageable daily chunks of writing.
  • Builds a community of writers that is working on a common goal.
  • Addresses issues of procrastination and perfectionism. 



The student effectively communicates to a variety of audiences in all forms of writing through the use of the writing process, proper grammar, and age-appropriate expressive vocabulary. 

The student:

W.12.1 Analyzes and assesses word choice to convey meaning; incorporates transitions, correct grammar, syntax, and style.

W.12.2 Evaluates and applies a variety of organizational techniques to write effective narrative, expository, and persuasive essays using the writing process; demonstrates a preferred style of writing.

W.12.3 Uses creative writing styles to produce poems and other literary forms.

Reading selection or other material(s):

Official website:

Official website – Young Writer’s Project:


Edutopia article on the benefits of NaNoWriMo in the classroom:

How to Get Kids to Write a Book:

Explanation of activity:  Each participating student and teacher writes the draft of a novel within one month.  

  • Sign up for free materials at the Young Writer’s Project website.
  • Decide on the word count for you and your students. Maximum word-count is 50,000 (which is what the adult wrimos write); there is no minimum – it depends on your circumstances. Last year my junior and senior high school students and I wrote 50,000-word novels. This year, because we have less time to write in school due to a Middle States reaccreditation visit, our school word counts are:
    • 7th grade: 10,000
    • 8th grade: 15,000
    • 9th grade: 20,000
    • 10th grade: 25, 000
    • 11th grade: 30,000
    • 12th grade: 35,000
  • In the months leading up to NaNoWriMo, use Read Like a Writer literature units to help students notice what choices authors make and speculate about what they would have done differently (and why).
  • Sign up your students at the YWP website, so they can track their word counts. Older students can sign up themselves.
  • Students should access the free materials (by level), which include a workbook full of ideas to spark writing.
  • Gather useful writing resources: writing books, books for inspiration, vocabulary flashcards, story prompt cards, etc.
  • Post the official word count chart in a prominent place with all the participant names, so you are ready to start tracking everyone’s progress towards the goal.
  • Prepare motivational goodies: name cards, stickers, etc.
  • Plan extracurricular events to build community (See our sample calendar).
  • Just start writing! I have found the process works best if you devote all your class periods to writing, and you write alongside the kids. Once they are hooked, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised to see them writing in the hallways, the cafeteria, before and after school…
  • Stress that the process of generating ideas and writing the draft is very different (and separate) from the revision process (which we do not work on yet, though we might get into it as we have more students familiar with the NaNoWriMo process). Students will need reminding – many will get bogged down in trying to find the perfect idea, word, etc.
  • Celebrate the small successes along the way. And really celebrate all those who reached goal. The quality of the writing is not the point with this activity; the point is to build fluency and confidence. Quality will come through other activities involving lots of revision.


  • Self-reflection essay, due the second week of December, after the completion of NaNoWriMo. The novel itself is NOT graded (or even read), though students do receive participation/preparation points for engaging in the appropriate writing activities. 

Alternative assessment activities:

  • PowerPoint or movie documenting the process of writing the novel.
  • Revision of a fragment

Real classroom application: I will show evidence of how NaNoWriMo worked for me and my students last year.


One response to this post.

  1. I am looking forward to NaNoWriMo, captain of the flying monkeys/ semi-sacred heifer( the word that some people did not know)


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