Selena Gallagher is an educator at the NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. NIST has around 1,500 students of over 50 nationalities, ranging in age from 3 to 18—and many of them are getting ready for a new year of NaNoWriMo! We asked her to tell us a little more about NaNo at NIST.
Last November, over 300,000 adults, children and teenagers from many parts of the world wrote novels, collectively writing around three billion words. They were joined by our school, which was participating for the first time. We had budding novelists from Year Five to Year Twelve, writing mostly in their own time, with individual word-count goals ranging from 2,500 to 30,000 words.
However, we are in Bangkok and NaNoWriMo coincided with some of the worst flooding Thailand has ever seen. Our school had to close in October which interfered with our preparation for NaNoWriMo and we weren’t even back at school on November 1st in time for the challenge to start. But the students rose to the occasion admirably, and the extended break allowed many of them to give their word counts a real boost.
I kept track of the students using the Virtual Classroom and we encouraged each other using the forums. One Year Five student demonstrated incredible dedication, achieving his original goal of 4,000 words in just three days! He immediately started on a sequel. By the end of November, the 13 elementary novelists had written a combined total of 74,709 words, with many exceeding their original goals by as much as 254%!
Juggling heavier workloads, nine participants from the secondary school still managed to write a combined total of 101,594 words during November, with five of them successfully meeting or exceeding their challenging word count targets. Some novelists even managed to persuade their parents to take part, too!
Despite our challenging start, NaNoWriMo was a phenomenal success, with many students surprising themselves with what they could do. Their class teachers have also seen the benefits spill over into improvements in their classroom writing, where they have been more confident and prolific.
With twelve published authors in the school courtesy of last year’s NaNoWriMo, interest this year has been rising exponentially. I expect to have a lot more students sign up to participate and the excitement is already mounting. We’re planning some fun events to celebrate and support our budding novelists, including a “Write All Night” in the school library at the halfway point. We’re also encouraging some of our students this year to write their novels in a language other than English. I am anticipating some stiff Word War competition as the secondary students won’t want to be beaten two years in a row.
At the end of it, I’m looking forward to reading (and publishing through CreateSpace!) our imaginative, funny, touching, scary, amazing student novels.
The last word should go to some of last year’s student novelists:
- NaNoWriMo has been an amazing experience for me. It taught me what it was like to be a real writer.
- When I’m in NaNoWriMo I feel famous. Also it’s fun and it has strengthened my writing skills. I think whoever is in NaNoWriMo is lucky.
- NaNoWriMo has been challenging but it is worth the time because it helps me get better at writing and literature. Sometimes it’s hard but most of the time it is fun because I get to control the story.
- The whole idea of NaNoWriMo is to put your inner editor away and just write. And it’s great to be able to do something like this in only a month. It was a serious challenge especially with school to find the time and keep above that golden line on my NaNo stats. And it’s really fun to share your ideas with other young authors from all around the world. A real must for any young author.
- I think NaNoWriMo is amazing because it helps me improve my imagination, typing and writing. I think opportunity will push me to do my best.
You can read another perspective on how NaNoWriMo YWP works in the classroom on the New York Times Learning Network, too!