This past November, grade 3 students at Stevenson participated in a version of NaNoWriMo (an elongated acronym that stands for National Novel Writing Month)—a worldwide internet-based activity hosted by a non-profit of the same name. The goal: to write a complete novel during the month of November.

NaNoWriMo was launched in 1999, as an online global project that challenged writers to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. The project became so popular that a group of volunteers banded together to form an organization to support the challenge, and today, the group offers a variety of tools to make the novel-writing process easier for participants.

Grade 3 teacher Katie Klevan explains, “In grade 3, we introduced a much lighter version of NaNoWriMo, so they were tasked with writing a novella. I started by telling them they were going to be writing an original story throughout the entire month of November. It was really just an experiment to see how much they can write and where their imagination will take them.” 

Students were introduced to the project during the last week of October by learning about how to create their own protagonist, antagonist, supporting characters, setting, and plot. Then, on the first school day of November, they took their planning from the previous week and began writing. 

As participants of NaNoWriMo, grade 3 Pirates dedicated about an hour of class time to writing two to three times per week during the month. Some students also chose to write at home. Throughout the process, they continued to learn about the craft of writing a story: writing with their senses, story arcs, how to bring a story to climax and resolution, and more. At the end of the month, students had a finished novella, and during the first week of December, students edited their work, created cover art and illustrations, and shared their finished projects with the class.

Ms. Klevan describes the culmination of the experience: “The students signed up to present their finished stories to the whole class. They would read the story aloud and show the cover art and any other illustrations they created. Their classmates then were able to give feedback about the story, and this was the cutest part! They had such nice and accurate things to say to their fellow authors. The presentations continued through the rest of December, and some students even started sequels or prequels to their original NaNoWriMo.”

As of 2019, 455,080 writers participated in NaNoWriMo worldwide, including 104,350 students on six different continents—which means that grade 3 students’ participation this year allowed them to become part of a much larger community of young, aspiring writers who are working to hone their craft and harness their imagination and creativity.