Increasing student stamina is one of the ways we can help students reach their true potential. More and more, teachers are saying that students lack stamina. What they mean is that students can’t focus for long periods of time. Another word for stamina is persistence.
Before students can learn any of your content, they need to master stamina. Without it, they will give up too easily when things get difficult.
Why do students lack stamina?
Why has this become more of a problem than ever before? We all know that the pandemic shifted schooling forever. In 2020, students moved towards screens more than ever before. This comes with its own challenges.
Furthermore, kids are hooked on digital tools that provide high engagement and rewards. Tik Tok is a prime example. If a video doesn’t capture attention instantly, the user checks out.
Attending to tasks for long periods of time is hard for many people. It’s especially hard for kids! However, there are things we can do to help increase student stamina.
Today I am going to talk about how to increase student stamina when it comes to reading and writing.
Increasing student stamina in reading
Ultimately, you need to help students build a habit over time. Gradually increasing the time spent reading is similar to how a long distance runner would train.
See how this teacher increased time spent reading in her classroom:
I have been doing “Free-Read Fridays” since February. I started out with 15 minutes of reading. I projected the timer up on the board so the students could see. The first couple of weeks, there were grumbles and complaints, but they read. Then I upped it to 20 minutes (still projected) and they didn’t really seem to notice. Now, I do 25 minutes.
Another idea for increasing stamina in reading is reading sprints. This teacher describes it here:
My coworker introduced reading sprints. They have been so cool to see student improvement from the beginning of the year. Basically it is one class period dedicated to reading in 10 minute chunks. You track how many pages read and put your favorite quote, detail, etc. from those pages, and then do the next 10 minutes. Students can track their progress throughout the year.
Students can benefit from visual timers during these types of activities. You can project the timer on the board or use something like a Time Timer. Read about my favorite ways to use timers in the classroom here.
Finally, a crucial way to support students in reading stamina is to make sure you’re working within the zone of proximal development. If a text is too challenging, students will give up. The best way I have found to make sure kids are reading on the right level for them is through free reading. I also recommend free reading because it promotes choice and autonomy. This helps improve motivation as well!
Increasing student stamina in writing
In addition to providing choice of reading material, I also believe in providing choice of writing topic. I have a list of 100 high interest writing prompts here. I give all of my students a copy of these topics to keep in their writing notebooks so that they can always refer to it.
Similar to reading stamina, writing stamina also has to be built up gradually over time. Start with smaller time frames and tasks before adding more complexity.
Another popular idea from a teacher is to try stream of consciousness writing. This activity is fun and low pressure:
Try stream of consciousness writing. They handwrite whatever comes into their minds. Write non-stop without erasing or lifting their pencil. I start with 30 seconds, then 2 minutes, then 5 minutes. They won’t believe how much writing they can accumulate. I ask them to share all of what they’ve written or just a couple of lines. I don’t force anyone to share though.
Lastly, it’s important to celebrate small wins. As students improve, always recognize their effort and growth.
- Set goals for time spent on task (use a Time Timer or the Pomodoro method)
- Teach study skills explicitly throughout the school year
- Take breaks throughout focused work sessions
- Get rid of distractions
- Teach growth mindset. (I have a free, high-interest reading passage about growth mindset that you can find here!)
How are you working on increasing student stamina in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!