Last week I sent out letters to children who might be interested in joining my Creative Writing Club. I ran a very successful club last year open to Year 5, and decided that this year I would do 2 sessions per week and open it up to Year 5 and 6 so that the children who had attended last year could keep coming, as well as my new Year 5s. I printed 10 letters per class, thinking that that would be enough. Well, it wasn’t!
We have 17 computers in our ICT suite so that meant there were 34 spaces available. I also said that children could work with partners if they wished as several people last year enjoyed having a co-writer and that would also mean more people could be accommodated. However, I was totally unprepared for the enthusiastic response I received! I was able to give places to about 40 children, but had to say no to another 30! That’s over a third of the children who want to be in the club! How brilliant! The great thing is that it isn’t just girls and it isn’t just high achievers – I have a lot of boys and a real range of abilities who will be attending. I have also said that anyone who didn’t get a place this time will definitely get a place in the Spring term.
I run the writing club based on the Young Writers’ Programme from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a fantastic scheme! The original adult version of NaNoWriMo involves writing a complete novel (50,000 words) in a month (November!). I know it can be done because I did it myself last year! Yes, as well as full time teaching and the normal home responsibilities I also put aside an hour or so of writing time every night and wrote an average of 1,666 words per day. In fact, near the end I was writing about 4000-6000 words a night because I just got so excited! This is the sort of enthusiasm about writing that the event produces!
At Writing Club, we spent the first session thinking about our plans for our novels. The YWP produces an excellent workbook and I used a few pages out of it about creating interesting characters. We also had a good chat about conflict and how it drives a story. The children are used to having one lesson for most of their writing, 40 minutes, if that. The longest I think I have ever given for a piece is about 3 lessons. Writing Club, at 30 minutes a week, gives them up to 7 hours of writing time! So they need a good plan with plenty of conflict to stop their characters getting to their goals too quickly!
The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that everyone who completes their novel within the month gets a free copy of their book professionally printed from CreateSpace! I signed up as an educator on their website and got an email after the event asking how many students had completed their novels. They then gave me a free code for every child! The printed books are fantastic quality and have become prized possessions for the children. Grandparents and other relatives have asked for copies of the books too! At current exchange rates, it costs about £5 for each extra book including postage – not bad at all for such a precious item! Parents can set up an account on CreateSpace for the children’s books, or you can do it yourself (with parental permission).
I’m really looking forward to getting started on the club next week! I love to see children so happy and motivated to write!