First Friday with Karen’s Novel Unit

I’m still not back up to full speed, and I’ll once again offer the excuse that the Internet in my room hasn’t been working. Turns out that someone stole the wireless connector off the wall over the summer!! Now maybe it will get fixed…

In the meantime, we had another amazing Anchorage CI meeting on Friday with Karen C. She shared how her classes write novels over a time period anywhere from three to six weeks. Karen is a former teacher of creative writing, and she knows how to make these stories and novels manageable.

I have to report a eureka moment from over the weekend sometime. I’d been a bit bothered by the output that any writing assignment must feature. Karen does not spend entire periods writing; she puts in the time at the beginning supporting kids who are nervous about it, but expects them to do a lot of work on their own. She says that Scott Benedict’s numbered word pages saved her (more on that later if people don’t know, maybe when I don’t have two periods’ worth of papers to grade), but her own clear structure also is phenomenal.

Still, what about all that output? It took a demo by Karen to make me understand that she fills the kids with overflowing output as they plan their first character. She isn’t handing them lists of cognates or instructions and expecting them to write. She gives them so many ideas that they’re actually ready to write, as I was myself after watching her talk through the initial stages of a “writing” assignment. I honestly felt that I could write a story in Spanish. I think that would be the same for kids! Now that we’ve done a lot of interviews with the beginners in Russian, I think that it would just be another novel (hah!) way of getting more CI as we develop a character together.

I’m still chewing on last weekend’s state conference, trying to digest what I’ve learned. Some of us have been having a talk about the “old” CI concept and the “new” task-based idea. Personally, I would think that these stories and novels that Karen does would be a great example of how CI and task-based instruction work together. I may be way off-base about that, but someone out in the blogosphere probably knows.

Ding! Ten minutes are up, and it’s time to grade papers. 

4 responses to “First Friday with Karen’s Novel Unit

  1. I am sad I missed it 😦


    • I’ll send you the stuff…oh, I already did! It’s surprising how much more we learn with the real person talking, although the handouts were amazing. If you have questions, let me know. I guess you can ask Karen, too! We missed you a LOT.


  2. I would love more details about how she gives beginners so many ideas. It sounds amazing. it sounds like exactly what i need right now. If you think she’d be interested in sharing it with me, feel free to give her my contact info.

    I think you’re right about creative writing being a solution for using more task-based instruction with TPRS. My school is in the candidacy phase for IB, and the creative focus of TPRS helps me to meet some of the standards for that too.


    • We are about to have our AFLA (state) conference. I think Karen is presenting this there, and I will try to get anything new she sends. I’ve told her she needs to put it on TeachersPayTeachers.


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