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Sarah R.

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1 reviews

Review for The Office of Letters and Light, Berkeley, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I am a high school English teacher in Colorado, in the Denver metro area. I have had my creative writing class participate in the Office of Letters and Light's NaNoWriMo program for four year now. National Novel Writing Month has become an important part of my curriculum and, more importantly, part of the school's culture. Students who are not participating for a class can still participate on their own, and at the school we hold write-ins and other events around NaNoWriMo.

The OLL provides us with SO much to make this a big part of our school. They send FREE classroom kits, they offer FREE lesson plans, and they even have a FREE online version of the student workbook (for all grade levels and even homeschool children, not just traditional high school students). I can easily purchase additional materials as needed, such as t-shirts and journals and mugs and buttons that I give away as prizes to students (and they LOVE them!). These resources are what make this wonderful project possible each year.

My students have found out so much about themselves as writers and as people through NaNoWriMo. They connect with other students worldwide via the NaNoWriMo website, and they connect with each other in more meaningful ways as a result of reading each other's work and helping each other through the strenuous creative process of trying to write a novel in a month! Their creativity, which for many of them has been buried beneath years of formal writing, five paragraph essays, and research papers, comes out timidly at first, and then explode out of them. Many of my students, in their reflections, speak of how much confidence they gained through NaNoWriMo, how much they learned about writing (in general, not just creatively), and how they accomplished so much more than they ever thought they could.

Last year, I had a student, Andrew, who tried to drop my creative writing class early in the year, because he hated writing. His parents, however, made him stay in the class because they believed it would help him improve his writing skills in general. He slogged through the first two months of school, where we studied units on fiction writing and poetry. He went through the motions. Then NaNoWriMo hit and his hatred had reached a boiling point.

"Write a whole novel in a month?!" I remember him exclaiming. "No effing way."

But as we started planning our novels at the end of October, he begrudgingly started to like his characters and his plot and his story idea. Three days into November, I remember Andrew coming in before class, getting his class materials out and talking excitedly to anyone who would listen. He was talking about his novel. A particularly snobby teenage girl flipped her hair, turned around to him, and said with a sneer, "What, did you just, like, figure out you like writing or something?"

Andrew became silent for a moment, then responded with a huge smile on his face, "Yeah!"

I will never forget that moment. It was one of the best moments of my teaching career thus far. Andrew reached his word count goal that November--surpassed it, in fact--and then finished his novel before he graduated that summer. He sometimes returns to visit, and he always talks to me about his novel and how he's still working on it even now. He likes writing now. He likes reading now. If NaNoWriMo can help to inspire a change so great in a high school senior, a 17-year-old, to grab hold of a love of life-long learning--well, I say that organization needs all the support it can get!

I love NaNoWriMo and what is does for education in this country. I love the people at the OLL for putting in such hard work to make it possible. I can't imagine a year without NaNo!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my students' learning, growth, and achievement--both academically and personally.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

get more servers so the website can handle all the traffic in October and November!

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?


How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?


How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

How did you find this group?

Randomly searching for writing projects online.

What, if any, change in your life has this group encouraged?

To make me a better teacher, to remember that students need to be creative and how to use their lessons in creativity to help inform their writing and reading.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Client Served & I implemented the NaNoWriMo program into my class curriculum and helped to make it part of the school culture. .