If your students have been pounding away on their keyboards for the past month, drafting a (very very rough) first draft of a novel (thank you, NaNoWriMo!), you might be wondering how you can assess the work they’ve done. It wouldn’t be fair to assess their first drafts, especially since one rule of NaNoWriMo is that we all “silence our inner editors.” How painful would it be for us to read all those unedited first drafts? (insert scream emoji here)
There is great value in having our students spend an entire month working on one lengthy piece of writing (see just a few of the reasons here), but when it comes time to assess their work, I recommend asking students to choose an excerpt from their novel that they will revise and polish to be worthy of publication. I give some basic parameters for this excerpt, such as:
- between 1 and 2 pages long (800-1200 words)
- includes dialogue
- includes details of setting
- includes details of at least one character (appearance, actions, thoughts)
- has been proofread carefully
- demonstrates your best narrative writing
My students copy and paste their excerpt into a new doc, print it out and bring it to class. I distribute a rubric based on recommendations from the Young Writers Program, and we go over the qualities one would find in an effective excerpt.
Then with highlighters in hand, they identify elements they are proud of and areas that need improvement. They trade excerpts with classmates to get feedback, and they take turns stepping outside to read their writing aloud so they can better hear how it sounds and catch more errors.
Once they have revised, proofread and corrected their excerpt, they add a brief introduction at the beginning to give the reader the broader context from which the excerpt was taken. These polished excerpts are then published in a variety of ways:
- on their digital portfolios
- on our classroom walls
- read aloud at our local bookstore at our own Meet-the-Author event
Since my students have been invested in these stories for most of the semester, their excerpts demonstrate the kind of writing we love to read: student-centered, passionate, and rich with the voice and authority of engaged writers.
Instead of viewing them as just another stack of papers to grade, enjoy them and celebrate the writing journey your students have taken!
Check out more tips for NaNoWriMo assessment here.