NaNoWriMo Editing Checklist

This editing checklist is for my fifth grade authors and peer editors as they prepare their novels for publication in a class anthology. We’ve covered a lot of this in class (pause while I dash off to add “a lot” to the checklist!*). The rest, I’ll teach in mini-lessons on editing days.

Some of it is basic, such as plot structure, simple character development, and formatting. Others, well… After years of editing student novels, let’s just say that everyone has stuff they get picky about. Mine include “thought to myself” (as opposed to what?) overuse of “and then,” and awkward synonyms for “said.” Feel free to copy these documents and replace my pet peeves with your own.

Best wishes, happy editing, and DFTBA!

NaNoWriMo Editing Checklist

*If you’re looking for a memorable way to teach your students that “a lot” is two words, check out this brilliant post over at Hyperbole and a Half. Kids can draw their own Alots. Super cool.

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“Choose Your Own Adventure” Standards Review

Adapted from Pernille Ripp‘s brilliant idea (you can find the original here), here’s my version of a “choose your own adventure” standards review. I pared it down for my fifth graders and didn’t include all our reading standards*, but (I hope) the spirit is still there: Providing lots of ways for students to show what they have learned in reading this year.

Students will circle two choices on each sheet and turn them in ahead of time so I can plan my small group work.

DFTBA!

5th Grade Reading Literature Standards Review

5th Grade Reading Informational Text** Standards Review

*Other standards are embedded in the projects, but I chose to simplify things by leaving that information off the sheet.

**It says “nonfiction” on the sheet, but I expect some of my students will use texts such as Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. Is fantasy informational text a thing? Aaaaaaabsolutely, at least in my world.

Genius Hour and Student Clubs? Hmm…

I had been meaning to introduce book clubs to my class, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. This year I wanted them to be an option for students during independent reading time rather than formal literature circles, and I needed to plan.

On Monday, one of my students — a student I have been wanting to engage more fully in class — asked if she could start a book club. Are you kidding me? That’s awesome! Of course!

The next day, she spent most of her Genius Hour considering logistics and inviting classmates to join. She made a special point of trying to include everyone, especially students who aren’t usually that into reading. It. Was. Amazing.

And then I made a mistake. Another student asked if he could start a club too — a board game club. I said a board game club would be great to pursue after school, but during class we’d stick to Genius Hour and book clubs. Wow. Way to think inside the box. Because when students spontaneously want to share their enthusiasm with other, that’s something I should definitely put a stop to, right? What am I doing, channeling Professor Umbridge? 😐

So I’m rethinking. If I allow a board game club and others (there were whispers about a writing club — how awesome is that?), two issues come to mind right away:

  1. How to keep students accountable for learning
  2. When to give them time for meetings

Both problems can be solved if student clubs meet during Genius Hour and work toward completing Genius Hour projects. A club could do a joint project, or club meetings could be a time when students working on separate projects could support one another. For example, board game club members could meet and talk about the games they’re creating individually. The focus would be on learning something, making something, and teaching or benefitting others, keeping clubs aligned to our Genius Hour goals.

What do you think? If you’re a Genius Hour teacher, has this come up in your classroom? Would you be willing to try it? What parameters would you set?

Thanks for your input if you have it, and DFTBA!

Project Based Learning: What if we didn’t start with a question?

“…models are merely models that should not be followed as a recipe without deep thought.” YES!

The Construction Zone

Note: This post was originally called: Project Based Learning: Don’t Start with a Question. However, through an excellent discussion below with Drew Perkins, I have changed the title to: Project Based Learning: What if we didn’t start with a question? See the comments for the rationale.


 End with a Question through Tinkering-Based Learning

Do you have to start project-based learning (PBL) with a question?

(Oh, wait a second! Am I starting this post with a question?)

This is something many people ask. I understand why this is so. Often teachers who are learning about Project Based Learning are encouraged to help students to develop a ‘driving question’ to guide their project. The Buck Institute, for one, suggests that PBL ‘is organized around an open-ended Driving Question’.

Tinkering-Based Learning (TBL)

Tinkering Awesome graphic: Page by Giulia Forsythe – @grantpotter Tinkering, Learning & The Adjacent Possible

I am going to suggest…

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So I Gave Up Punishment and My Students Still Behaved

Yes! Exactly!

image from icanread

When I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress last summer I mistakenly assumed that all posts would seamlessly transfer.  I have since found the error in my thinking and have decided to re-post some of my more discussed posts.  This post first appeared in June of 2011  but still rings true to me.

Three years ago I gave up my inane punishment plans.  Out went the sticks, the cups, the posters, the pointed fingers and definitely the lost recesses.  No more check-marks, or charts to explain what that check-mark meant, no more raised voice telling a child they better behave or else.  Some thought I was crazy, I thought I was crazy, and yet, here I am now a complete convert.  So what happened?

Well, a lot of conversations.  If just one child was off that day, disruptive, disrespectful and so on, it was usually handled through a quiet conversation off to…

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10 Teacher Promises I Can’t Keep

This is wonderful and so very true.

Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P.

Promises I can't keep

I still get excited and a little nervous meeting my new fourth grade students. I love connecting with my them and having a positive role in their lives. That being said, there are some promises I try to make to my students but can never keep

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5th Graders Reflect on NaNoWriMo

Once again, NaNoWriMo was a highlight of our year and the best writing activity ever invented. Here’s what my students had to say about their experience:

NaNoWriMo was amazing, because before I thought I was bad at writing and now I believe that I can write.

I couldn’t really stick to my original plot as it was too plain and I had to make the plot up as I went, only this one was far more exciting and adventurous.

I liked how (my main character) grew emotionally and physically during my story.

I learned new words. I learned the correct spelling for a lot of words.

I could write more than usual. It made me love writing.

Don’t be nervous even if you don’t like writing. NaNoWriMo is the funnest thing on Earth.

What I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo is how to manage my time.

I wrote more than I expected. I just got ideas while I was writing.

NaNoWriMo has expanded my imagination. I think of better ideas than I used to.

I wrote more words than I expected. Typing fast was difficult for me at the beginning because I did not have a lot of typing skills. I got too many plot bunnies and I did not have enough time to write some of them down. Now I type much faster than I used to.

It was fun to imagine all the things in my story and not have to do nonfiction writing. It have me a chance to use my imagination. I had freedom to write whatever came into my mind.

One thing that was difficult about NaNoWriMo was that I had so many ideas and only a month to write.

What I would do again next year: Use the papers that you fill out about your character.

If I could do NaNoWriMo again next year I would start off not introducing the characters but going right into the action.

I’m considering writing a sequel.

I am more into writing now, and I learned that keeping a goal is harder than it seems. I learned how to set time aside for important things.

Don’t think too much about your writing. Just get your ideas on paper. You can edit later.

Something that went well for me in NaNoWriMo is that I wrote every free second I had.

I used everyday experiences and put them in my story. I also added details and put in things to make my story more interesting and make it harder for my characters to get what they want.

I accidentally added some things to my story that I regretted at first but then I figured out how to make my story more interesting using that.

I wish we had WAY more time to write.

I have learned that I can write a NOVEL! I also thought (before NaNoWriMo) that writing was just for school and because the teacher said so. But then I found out that maybe it was for fun! It was “PUT ALL YOUR IMAGINATION ON PAPER!!!”

It has also made me feel like a writer and it makes me feel like I know what plot is.

The story came flowing to me as I was typing, and there was never a point when I didn’t have an idea that would last me a few thousand words. The story was just talking, and I was writing without stopping. (from a 3rd-time WriMo)

NaNoWriMo gave me more confidence as if I were walking down the street and I can just say, “I am a novelist!” and be proud of it.

I made the end perfectly like I wanted. I became WAY smarter in writing. I know how to make big stories. I know how to describe better or make better sentences. (from an English learner)

I can write a novel.

Write a story that will make you satisfied.

Some ideas changed into better ideas while I wrote.

I loved writing the story and I enjoyed making up all kinds of different characters. I liked using my imagination to come up with a plot that I liked.

Even if you want to give up, keep trying. You can do this.

Don’t let your inner editor get to you, okay?

NaNoWriMo changed the way I wrote. NaNoWriMo makes me put more effort and details into my writing.

I learned to be more responsible and take care of everything that I need to do. It has also taught me to be self-confident and happy about your work, but it has also taught me to not be overconfident and cocky about NaNo, because it’ll turn around and bite you in the butt. If you’re not careful you could be in the dungeon of despair from the happiness of Heaven. NaNo is unpredictable.

Get Ready for the Great Teacher Exodus

“autonomy, mastery and purpose are what motivate 21st century workers”
Interesting and highly relevant point! I am fortunate enough to have these things in my current teaching job, but I don’t know how long I’d last without them.

Public Education Today

My column appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday, September 16. Here’s the link, but since it’s behind the paywall, I’m pasting it below. http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/stevenson-get-ready-for-the-great-teacher-exodus/nhM5M/

Stevenson: Get ready for the great teacher exodus

By Sara Stevenson – Special to the American-Statesman

If teachers are the most important school factor in student achievement, how do our current policies and national conversation help us to grow and retain better teachers? Tenured Stanford University professor Eric Hanushek wants us to fire “bad teachers,” but we should worry more about keeping the good ones. This year my public middle school lost a wave of talent.

To those, such as Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, who believe that experience doesn’t matter, why are our new teachers cautioned, before Back to School Night, not to tell the parents they’re a first-year teacher? Studies cited in Dana Goldstein’s “The Teacher Wars” show that first-year teachers underperform experienced…

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Dear Common Core English Standards: Can we talk?

Yes! My job is to educate all the children in my classroom, with their diverse interests and future plans. I know they won’t all pursue careers in science, yet I try to get them to like and appreciate science, hoping that at the very least they’ll keep this in mind when they become adult citizens and voters. Reading and writing are meaningful creative outlets as well as ways to connect to the world and to other people — especially in our increasingly digital world. While close reading and literary analysis can help a reader make those connections, they don’t have to be the end goal.

Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

Back in 1993, when I had barely been teaching in my own high school English classroom for a month, I had an epiphany.  I looked around my classroom of ninth graders and realized, consciously, that they were not all going to become high school English teachers.  As epiphanies go, I admit that does not sound exceptional, but it was actually foundational for the rest of my career in education.  The reason for this was that I simultaneously realized that I was teaching English because of the lifelong qualitative relationship that I had with reading and writing in English.  My father probably read “Oscar the Otter” to me every night for a month when I was four.  As a young reader, I often wondered if I would ever have a friend as cool as Encyclopedia Brown’s sidekick, Sally Kimball.  Later, I was positive that I found a lifelong friend in Charles…

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