Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Did My Class and I Rock NaNo?

QUICK NaNoWriMo Update for me and my four brave, brilliant 7th-graders:

Student 1 Wrote 18 pages of a brutal story that involved a broken home, an abusive father, and the hope found in a friend-who-could-maybe-be-more. This student read bits of her story to the other girls during lunch; they argued over who was their favorite character and pestered her to keep writing so they'd know what happened.
Then the student tore that story out of her book and started a new story.
Her guardian had read through it and didn't approve it. Her new story does not contain a broken home or an abusive father. All the favorite characters are gone.

Student 2 Wrote bits and scraps on backs and half-sheets for most of November. By the third week, she had about 6 pages all together. Organization knocked her out. So did setting--she didn't know how to write scenes about Washington D.C. when she'd never been there. We talked at length about writing herself into a corner. :) She picked up her pace during the last week by focusing on her characters, and she wrote about 9 more pages.

Student 3 Hated her story by the middle of the month. When I gave her permission to start over, she gleefully stomped on her old pages. She spent most of the fourth week glumly facing her new project, annoyed with how she kept ruining great ideas by writing boring set-up. This girl is an artist, so I showed her Maus--we had just finished a WWII-lit unit--and discussed graphic novels. What a bright face she had! It was like I had lifted a lead blanket off her shoulders.
She showed me pictures that she just worked on last night of a girl getting run over by a car. The student was glowing, proud of her bloody images and of grossing out Ms. Jessica. She's going to finish her story through December.

Student 4 Had 37 pages at the end of November and will write through December. She had started writing a horror story, but she realized she didn't need to embellish anything to tell a terrifying tale. She is writing her life story.
At first, she thought she had to modify it to keep it 'middle school appropriate.' I told her to be as honest as she wanted to be about what she's been through.

Me? I mean, does it really matter, compared to these girls? I think they're so cool, so brave, so fun, so strong. They inspire me. But, just to round it out--I wrote 18, 400 words. It was totally fun and diverting and sometimes awful and annoying. Like John Green says, NaNoWriMo gives a writer 1) discipline and 2) permission to suck. I think I picked up some discipline, and I definitely am all about being okay sucking.

So, YES, we absolutely rocked NaNoWriMo!

And now we're reading "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti and "Goblin Fruit" by Laini Taylor. Favorite. Unit. Ever. :)


  1. You all DID rock NaNo. Jes, that's an incredible word count! I am so proud of you! And very sad for Student 1 who was told that she had to start over by someone at home. Not fair. Thank you for inspiring them - and me! And for being a safe place for them to explore their stories.

  2. Jes. Oh my gosh. More teachers like you, please! 'Goblin Market' is an awesome poem and Laini's story is equally fantastic and wonderful. I wish all education was more like that.

    Agreed with Jennie that it's so sad about Student 1: that kind of negative feedback can stunt or destroy a creative. She's lucky she has you to help her work her way back. And congrats on your own words and progress.

  3. NaNo: awesome. New unit: awesome. Those girls are lucky to have you! :)

  4. So great! Would have been awesome to have had a teacher like you! : )