If you watch any track and field events, you see runners ready for their races. They are practiced and primed for the big event. Runners build stamina over years of intense preparation.
You don’t jump in and decide to run a marathon after being a couch potato for years. It starts with baby steps. The same is true for students as they grow and develop their reading and writing muscles.
To build reading and writing stamina, start small. Set a timer with a 3-minute focused, no-question time of reading or writing. From there, grow the minutes slowly. Let students know if they achieved the goal, missed it, or exceeded it.
As a runner herself, Stephanie Truitt, 4th grade teacher at Flint Lake Elementary (Valparaiso, IN), takes the running analogy further. Using the Couch to 5K app, Stephanie sets the timer on her readers and writers. She increases the increments regularly, just as a runner would do. She is building her readers’ and writers’ on-task stamina.
With you as the motivational coach, readers and writers can keep track of their training as well. Log the length of their “workouts.” Discuss how it went. What did they do well during the time? How could they improve their success? Discuss goals for “distance” improvement.
During the first weeks of school, work to build literacy muscles. Gradually build students’ reading and writing stamina. Before you can start meeting with readers in 20-minute small groups and conferencing with writers for chunks of time, the rest of the class has to be able to work independently.