I feel like building writing stamina is something that is not talked about often. Writing stamina is an important part of our students’ writing foundation that we need to build. Here are some effective strategies for nurturing writing stamina for our younger students.
Embracing the Writing Process
The way I teach my writing units is to focus on the writing process. Rather than putting the emphasis on a finished project or story, we focus on the journey of the process of writing. This means that as a class we work through planning, writing, revising, editing, and publishing (occasionally).
I love teaching my students to write the way most published authors do - without publishing each and every piece of writing they finish but picking their favorite to publish. Once my students are familiar with the writing process they know what to expect each class period.
Related Post: What is Writer's Workshop?
Establishing a Writing Routine
At the beginning of the year, set your writing schedule for the full length of writing time you want to have throughout the majority of the year. It is much easier to fill extra time than to come up with additional time when you need it later.
Having an established routine during your writing time will help students know your expectations for writing. I like to use the same format daily when I teach writing. We start with an overview of the learning objective and a review of the previous day’s lesson. Then I move into my lesson where students are learning new vocabulary or the concept for the day. Next, there is time for them to practice that concept. Last, students are released to write.
I am also very clear in my expectations during their writing time that they should be writing. When I release students to write they are given an assignment to work on. Often, the content of what they should write is up to them but how they are writing is provided. For example if we are working on opinion writing students might be asked to write an introduction but are allowed to choose their topic.
Setting Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals for students to meet during independent writing time can help when building writing stamina. When first starting your writing time, I would recommend timing your students while writing - without telling them. This helps establish a baseline for how long they can write interrupted for.
The next day, tell your students how long they wrote the day before and challenge them to make it a minute longer. Each day add another minute (when they are successful with the previous time) and keep increasing time until you’ve reached your goal.
How your independent writing time should look - and sound - is up to you. If you are okay with some noise and a few off-task students then great! But if you are like me and prefer all students focused on writing then set that expectation and stop the timer when even one student doesn’t follow this expectation.
I will say though that some years you’ll have a student that just isn’t capable and that’s okay. Set specific expectations for them so the class knows they still have their own goals and it seems more “fair.” Then move on and keep enforcing the goals you have set. Your students are capable of reaching them.
Providing Writing Choice
I’m often against cookie-cutter writing assignments. Not to say I haven’t done them before - or even as recently as this past November, but I strongly feel that students should be given a choice of what to write during writing time.
When students are offered a choice and can pick what interests them - well, chances are they will write more. Talk about building writing stamina! You can still have a common topic for your writers. For example, if writing biography reports they can pick their own person to write about. The format and process remains the same but the topic is what will excite your writers.
Creating a Comfortable Writing Environment
Our classrooms should be a welcoming space to write. This doesn’t mean you have to go overboard on decorations and purchasing furniture and flexible seating. Something as simple as setting the tone for writing time is a great way to create a great space. I like to put on quiet instrumental music without lyrics. Having quiet music in the background can really help students to focus.
Implementing Peer Collaboration
My students love any chance they can get to work together. This is why I’ve set up my writing process to include peer collaboration. My students read their stories to one another, edit and revise with each other’s help, and sometimes even collaborate to narrow down which topic to write about. Including peer collaboration is a great way to increase writing stamina!
Sometimes our writers struggle with their pencil grip and getting words physically onto their paper. When this happens, I like to work outside of the writing block on holding their paper and letter formation. During writing time, I want to see their work and see them producing writing. Sometimes offering them the choice to type instead of using pencil and paper is a great alternative. Don’t be afraid to allow your students to use technology instead once in a while.
When it comes to building writing stamina, your expectations and encouragement are key to the process. Your students will take their cues from you so make sure you have a classroom conducive to building up writing by following the tips in this blog post.