27 October 2012

Celebrating Writing in November

November approaches and so too a month of celebrating writing. For some it is the month of AcWriMo, while for many of my own undergraduate students, it is a time to be busy with projects and writing assignments.  

One thing I often find is how teachers will reluctantly share their real world learning with students. Even though teachers are already so busy with teaching, increasing loads of administration work and ever larger classrooms, it is by sharing their learning with students, that educators set examples and often leave students reflecting. Whether one is involved in academic studies, professional training, or other activities which serve as models, (e.g. doing sport, learning/playing a musical instrument and so forth) , I find it a positive attitude to share this with students; not in the sense of giving them details of the courses/training, but by letting them understand that learning is a constant journey, and does not end at the school gate or after graduation. 

It is within this context of sharing that the joyful rules of  AcWriMo may also be adapted to other classrooms. In a nutshell, these are AcWriMo's rules for this coming November:

1 - Set yourself some crazy goals;
2 - Publicly declare your participation and goals;
3 - Discuss what you are doing;
4 - Don't slack off;
5 - Publicly declare your results. 

This can be put into practice in writing classes (e.g. allowing students to write fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose) and the teacher would participate for one month. There could be lessons where writing problems could be discussed (e.g. how to link ideas and narratives, developing characters). In brief, a special month dedicated to writing workshops where the focus is on the pleasures of writing. 

Literary Elements Mapping is an interactive map by Read Write Think, which helps learners focus as they prepare their plots. The Circle Plot Diagram  is another interactive task by Read Write Think, that helps learners focus on their writing process. 

If this seems too much, then there is always another alternative!

Lillie McFerrin has developed Home of Five Sentence Fiction, . Once a week McFerrin posts a word to inspire a story with five sentences. 

Teachers can easily adapt this example and have the whole class contribute. Stories can be written in students' blogs or simply put around the classroom for everyone to read how that particular word was used to inspire a short, very short, story. 

Language Virus  offers a treasure of resources for writing, from Creative Writing Games to Generating  Poetry . Definitely a site any writing teacher would be interested in exploring. 

Bitesize by the BBC has a page for sentence writing and one for paragraph writing, which in turn are followed up with an interactive task. The Children's University of Manchester, has a new site, which together with the above pages of Bitesize, are great for younger learners. 

Finally for today, I'd still like to highlight Quabel , a tool to help writers focus and set writing goals, and a new site by the Open University, which has an excellent page on Being Digital.   

Here you find interactive tasks covering plagiarism, filtering information quickly, and other online skills which college and university students need to develop.  

With so many different options to choose from, November will surely be a month of celebrating writing and unleashing creativity!

How will you be encouraging writing this November?


I'd like to thank Mariusz Les for having pointed out Five Sentence Fiction to me. 


  1. These are great ideas and I am looking forward to exploring them, and taking on some new challenges in November with my middle-school students. Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Thank you for visiting and sharing your enthusiasm! I have used most of these references and had results from students who usually didn't like writing. Five Sentences is new to me too though and am looking forward to surprising my students with it - always a much more welcoming task than a full blown essay!

      Best wishes for your and your students' challenges this November!

  2. Thanks for the post, Ana!
    I'd like to add the writing challenge Ten-word stories http://www.sparkyteaching.com/resources/creative/tenwordstories.html from Sparky Teaching.
    The idea is the same as behind Five Sentence Fiction but probably more suitable for younger students.

  3. Hi Baiba,

    Thank you so much for your time and visit - AND for your excellent idea! Sparkyteaching has a great range of activities and your suggestion is definitely one of the best!

  4. Hi ACP!
    Writing is one of my favourite topics! The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once ended a letter with something like, "I'm sorry this letter is so long but I didn't have time to write a shorter one." He said it in French obviously but the sentiment is clear I think. I often start off an adult writing class with a 'hangman' game using this quotation, getting the students to suggest letters and building up the quotation until somebody is able to guess the whole thing. Then we spend some time discussing what it means. The results are always inspiring. Students reflect on what writing is all about and then - when it comes round to actually writing something, they often take a new (and better) approach without any encouragement from me. I like the 5 sentences / 10 word suggestions above. Can I add another one? I once attended a workshop by Mario Rinvolucri and he had us writing dialogues in pairs, passing a paper (two at the same time in fact) back and forth, starting with a dialogue 'opener' of seven words, then responding with six, then five ... down to one. I've since done this with all kinds of classes, all ages, all levels. It's good fun and it gets students to focus carefully on grammar and vocab. It isn't easy to say exactly what you want with just 3 or 4 words! It arouses curiosity too. Students want to read what their classmates have written. And for me "curiosity" is the key to motivation. I'm looking forward to seeing what other people have got to say about writing! Kath