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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Word Count Goals

Friday (the Friday before last, actually) was interesting.

We finally set our word count goals for NaNoWriMo.

Students have been pestering me for weeks:

"How long does my story have to be?"

I have been refusing to answer.

In a sick way, I enjoy their frustration.

They need uncertainty.

They need to become so devoted to their stories, length loses importance.

Friday, we finally talked about length.

First, I made students write for ten minutes.

It was a cold write and the only rule was to keep writing no matter what.

Then, we mathed.

Yes, I know math is not a verb.

It should be.
I made students use the word count tool to figure out how many words they had written.

Then we multiplied:

Times four (because we will write forty minutes a day).

Then we multiplied again:

The new total times four (because we will write four days a week).

Then we multiplied again:

The new new total times four (because there are four weeks in a month).

This gave us our in class word count goal.

Then we started again.

Our timed write word count times 12 (because students are expected to write two hours a week outside of class).

Then we multiplied again:

This new total times four (because there are four weeks in a month).

This gave us our at home word count goal.

Finally, we added the two goal totals together.

The totals ranged from about 8,000 words up to 49,000 words.

Everyone was startled by how much they are going to write.

Equally surprising to them: how much they wrote in ten minutes.

It was an incredibly effective exercise.

Students saw how quickly they could produce text.

Which helped them both set their goals and understand how they could reach them.

Except for one kiddo with a 32,000 word goal.

She is a Senior who is also taking AP British Literature for college credit.

She stressed herself out so much and rushed so hard in that ten minutes there is no way she could sustain that pace.

Also, she is a Senior who is taking the hardest course we offer.

The only reason she is in my class is because she missed too much school to get all her ELA credits early on in her high school career.

Maybe she will reach that goal. She is totally capable.

My goal is the standard adult goal of 50,000 words.

The student challenge: write more than me.

Setting our goals was an interesting experiment.

It worked better than I anticipated.

It was a good thing.

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