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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fruit Chew Fridays

This week, we played games.

Specifically, I offered speed challenges.

Let me first say, the middle of #NaNoWriMo is slumpy.

It isn't that we, as writers, lack motivation per se.

Its more that motivation isn't quite the same thing as inspiration.

For me, I get my characters stuck in certain situations and can't figure out how to transition to the next event.

Some kids have had that problem too.

The kids also have other problems I have mostly managed to avoid.

They don't always know where they are going.

Once in a while, they know what they want to do next, but they aren't sure how to do it.

This is also the point where we are all a little sick of our own stories.

"My story is boring to me now." is a pretty common sentiment.

All of these inhibitors of writing must be overcome, compensated for, counteracted as much as possible.
For a newbie like me, this is a serious challenge.

Since I hate writing fiction and have done as little of it as possible in my life, I don't have a lot of ready made strategies for writer's block and the slumps.

Students want to write.

Instead, they sit staring blankly at the screen dismayed by their lack of progress.

I poked around on the Young Writer's Project website and the NaNoWriMo website for ideas.

I also did some cursory Googling for ideas.

The possible solution I gleaned: short term challenges.

So I tried it.

First, I ordered a bunch of cheap stickers and toys from Amazon.

Then, last week, I issued the first challenge.

Write 300 hundred words in this class period, get a sticker.

The sticker choices included a selection of Pokeman and random emblems like Nike and United Kingdom soccer.

Those who also managed to write more than I did that hour, got two stickers.

Almost half of them met the 300 word mark.

About a dozen exceeded my numbers.

It was awesome!

They went completely nuts for those stupid stickers.

Pure silliness.

Word counts went up for almost every kid.

The next day, I tried a different challenge.

I wanted to make sure all the kids, even my slowest writers, had a shot at success.

Instead of a single goal, I added layers.

We called it Fruit Chew Friday.

For reasons I don't completely understand, they love tootsie rolls and fruit chews.

But that is nothing compared to the sheer madness that is their hunger for fruit snacks.

So the challenge went like this:

One fruit chew for every hundred words, or if you reached five hundred, you could choose fruit snacks instead.

I went through over 200 fruit chews.

We had fun racing against the clock and earning treats.

It broke through the inertia for the vast majority of kids.

And it made many of them more willing to ask for help.

The last two days before Thanksgiving break will be pretty tough.

I have rubber bracelets and stress balls and small toys for our next challenges to get us over the holiday hump.

I know all the stuff about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.

Of course, I want kids to be able to motivate themselves.

Until then, though, and to get over the slumps, I will give them candy and stickers and toys.

And if the result is hundreds of extra words, enthusiasm, and a peaceful rest of November, I'll take it.

It is a good thing, and I will take it with all the Thanksgiving gratitude I can muster.

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