4 Ways NaNoWriMo Can Enhance Learning in Adult Education Classes

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Hurray! November is finally here! While this month traditionally kicks off the holiday season with the much anticipated Thanksgiving feast, November is also known as National Novel Writing Month-or NaNoWriMo for short. NaNoWriMo brings together thousands of aspiring writers who commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. The event is sponsored by a non-profit organization of the same name (check them out at nanowrimo.org) which “believes in the transformational power of creativity.” That belief drives them to “provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”  Sound familiar?

While challenging your students to write 50,000 words in thirty days may not be the best tactic for encouraging new or even seasoned adult learners – talk about intimidating!- there are four great ways to utilize the NaNoWriMo mission statement to enhance the classroom experience.

  1. Setting and Committing to a Goal

The most important aspect of NaNoWriMo is making a daily or weekly word count goal. Breaking down that 50k word count into smaller chunks makes the project seem much more manageable. Many adult learners already know what it’s like to set a life goal. Sadly, some have never experienced it. Making a goal and having a mentor or other classmates there to keep them accountable is a valuable learning experience in itself. Making even a small goal of 200 words per week (the equivalent of roughly two paragraphs) or challenging them to a 10 minute writing sprint will help them to improve writing skills, but also to develop the important skill of making personal goals and achieving desired results.

  1. Practical Use of Learned Materials

You work hard every week to make class engaging and interesting. But let’s face it, sometimes you catch your students’ eyes going blank as their minds drift somewhere else. What better way to see if they’ve really been paying attention than by giving them a surprise essay to write? Not only will essay exercises help your students to express themselves in writing more effectively, it will also help mentors determine each student’s strengths and possible areas needing improvement.  If done regularly, students will begin to see their progress and have tangible proof of it.

  1. Increase in Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is an essential life skill that is a foundational principle of true literacy. It embodies the ability to not only communicate but to understand and convey properly what is being communicated. Whether you give your students a topic to write about or present it as a free form assignment, writing even small pieces requires critical thinking. From the conception stage of “what should I write about?” to forming sentences, paragraphs, and transitions, the brain is fully involved. Try using short writing sprints (5-15 minutes) or introducing fun words or prompts to include in their story. Helping them see how innovative they can be with sentence creation will boost their writing level and their engagement with the often dreaded task of writing. And bonus,the more your students write (and read), the more they employ and develop their comprehension and critical thinking levels.

  1. A Much Needed Confidence Boost

Everyone likes to know that their efforts are worth it. Many students who enter the adult learner programs have never felt confident in an academic setting. They might resist the idea of writing at first, thinking or feeling that they aren’t interesting enough or important enough to have anything to write about. The truth is everyone has an interesting story to tell! Encourage them to write about the people, places, or events that are important to them. Wonderful things can happen when a person realizes not only that they can tell a story, but that they have something to say that others find interesting.


NaNoWriMo may not for every class or for every student, but for many, the NaNoWriMo principles can be a fun, engaging way to enhance your classroom’s writing practices all year round.


For more information, visit NaNoWrimo on all major social media platforms to see what they’re up to using #NaNoWriMo and @NaNoWriMo.

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