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!

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.

Exploration and Xerox PARC

Beginning next week, the students in the House of Awesome will begin a learning adventure called Exploration (known in many classrooms as Genius Hour). Here’s how it works: Every Tuesday afternoon, students will be in charge of their own learning. They will choose a topic that interests them, submit a proposal, plan and conduct their own research, create something to show what they learned, and present their results to the class. While they may explore any topic that interests them, they will be learning fifth grade standards in English language arts, math, science, social studies, and/or visual and performing arts. In addition, they will develop skills in decision making, goal setting, and time management.

This will be a departure from the usual teacher-led classroom routine and a departure from what most of us expect from school. Is it worth spending so much time on free choice learning and creating? What could possibly come out of it that students can’t get from the traditional model of teaching and learning?

Let me tell you a story: the true story of Xerox PARC, established in 1970 in Palo Alto, California. A group of brilliant scientists and engineers were brought together to do basic research. Their prime directive was to invent the office of the future, nothing more specific than that. They were given free reign to dream up and try whatever they were interested in. By some estimates, more than 2,500 of their ideas are still in use today. Here are just a few examples*:

  • Ethernet (technology that formed the backbone of the Internet). I could stop there and that would be world-changing enough. But wait, there’s more!
  • Laser printers
  • The personal computer — the idea that each person in an office would have their own computer rather than just a terminal
  • The concept of a computer that was so easy, even a child could use it. Now my students are creating their own code using such machines.
  • Object-oriented programming
  • The virtual desktop and virtual folders that we all use on today’s computers
  • The concept of a suite of office software with a virtual clipboard
  • Popup windows and menus. Anyone (anyone old like me) who remembers the DOS prompt knows what a leap forward that was!
  • Desktop publishing (Yes, kids, that used to not be a thing. I’m serious.)
  • Postscript, the first technology that allowed a document to look the same regardless of the printer being used
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) technology. Remember text-based editing software, e.g. Word Perfect from the 80s? That was all about to change.
  • The Alto computer: one of the first personal computers, comparable to the Macintosh but released a full eleven years earlier!
  • The concept of the laptop computer
  • Technology for video capture and manipulation that would eventually form the basis of Pixar
  • And my personal favorite: Software on the Alto allowed the user to change between fonts, including — get this — Elvish runes. I love nerds!

Suffice it to say that smart people allowed to pursue their own interests can accomplish amazing things. I look forward to another year of guiding students through the Exploration process. Allons-y! 

*Source: Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik

NaNoWriMo Is Coming!

NaNoWriMo teachers: The 2014 classroom noveling kits are here! If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with your students yet, I highly recommend it! It is the most empowering, exhilarating, motivating activity you could possibly dream of bringing to the classroom. I have done it for four years with my fourth through sixth grade students, and I look forward to it with excitement every November. It comes with free lesson plans and support for teachers, but it is flexible enough to fit in with your own teaching style. Visit the Young Writers Program website for more information. As they say, the world needs your stories!

Our Reading Workshop Is Approaching the Launch Pad

Thanks to some wonderful resources (The CAFE Book, Notebook Connections, and Reading in the Wild), and ultimately inspired by Donalyn Miller‘s life-altering The Book Whisperer and some amazing colleagues, I have outlined a plan for this year’s Readers Workshop. Key components:
1. Reading Notebooks, where students will record books and genres read, books for future reading, goals, strategies, reading notes, interesting words, and drafts of blog posts.
2. A Pensieve (teacher’s notebook – name borrowed from The CAFE Book and Albus Dumbledore) for recording assessments, student conferences, and strategy group work.
3. A rough idea of what our workshop will look like, with time for read aloud, whole class mini-lessons, individual conferences, strategy groups, and lots of independent reading, note taking, research, and writing and talking about books. I’ll introduce these gradually so students are clear about their options during Reading Workshop. Continue reading

Wait, summer’s almost over and I don’t have it all figured out!

I’m more nervous than excited about the start of the 2014-2015 school year. My mind isn’t quite ready to be in charge of this thing. I haven’t made lists, I haven’t planned, and I don’t have a clear vision for where I want to go.

The hardest thing about setting goals for a new year is to narrow them down. I want to be amazing at All The Things! Some of my plans work out. Others are abandoned halfway through, what with me being human and finite and all. When the owl arrives with my Time-Turner, things will be better. I just know it!

Until that happens, however, I need to be realistic. I need to set one major goal to focus on this year. (Not that owls and Time-Turners aren’t realistic. I’m sure she’s on her way.)

There are several new things happening this year, some of which are my choice:  Continue reading