Meet Writers Where They Are Blog Series · stamina · writing workshop

Developing Stamina: Meet Writers Where They Are

Meet Writers Where They Are: A Blog Series by the Co-Authors of Two Writing Teachers - #TWTBlog

At 5 am each school day, the alarm went off and I coaxed myself out of bed. Switching into my exercise clothes, then filling my water bottle, I worked out for about 30 minutes. For several years, daily exercise had become a part of my routine.

Then came the COVID-19 shutdown in March. Suddenly teaching from home, I faced the challenge (as so many of us did) of figuring out how to teach my third graders remotely. This involved hours of time sitting on the computer. My exercise routine was upended. Rather than put on my sneakers first thing in the morning, I woke up and walked straight to the computer, where I sat for a few hours getting all the work ready for the day. The time at home was consumed with trying to reach my 26 third graders remotely while also helping my own children navigate their online schooling and emotions. 

For many of our students, the school shutdown last spring resulted in interrupted and inconsistent learning. Not only were students taken out of their familiar school setting, many faced trauma with relatives and friends getting sick and passing away from COVID-19. Financial instability and emotional issues affected many families. While we are “back to school,” this looks different in every way from how it looked last year. Some children continue to learn remotely, some learn in a hybrid manner, and others are face-to face but with masks on and/or behind plastic shields.

The stamina I had for exercising needs to be rebuilt, as do all the routines and rituals that went into my daily habit of working out. So, too, with writing stamina for our students. We cannot expect students to pick up where they left off. We need to meet them where they are today. 

When we think of stamina, whether with exercise or writing, we might be tempted to think only of the moment – the moment of doing jumping jacks or moving the pencil across the paper. Yet, so much more goes into getting to that moment and then staying in that moment. Stay with me, as I compare trying to build up my stamina for daily movement to students growing in their stamina for writing. (For the full Google slide presentations with links, click here.)


I’m working my way to being an active person again, building up muscles that have atrophied and working on becoming fitter and stronger. It won’t happen overnight, but I will improve with daily practice, with a community supporting me, with mentors, and with modifications that allow me to participate at the level that fits my current abilities. Our writers will get there, too. They need daily practice, mentors, a community that supports them, scaffolds to help them bridge from their current level to the standards, and celebrations of their process and effort. 

How are you helping your writers build back their stamina?

Some more stamina resources:

Melanie Meehan’s video

Resources Teachers Can Share With Families: Increasing Writing Stamina and Volume at Home

Stamina in our Youngest Writers 

Building Stamina in Primary Writers 

Ten Possible Minutes: Sacred Writing


Giveaway Info: 

  • This giveaway is for a copy of ONE of the following books (winner’s choice): A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Workshop Essentials: Time, Choice, Response by Katherine Bomer and Corinne Arens, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Every Kid Writing by Kelly Boswell, or Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing by Ralph Fletcher. Thanks to Heinemann for donating one of these to the winner of this giveaway. (You must have a U.S.A. mailing address — Sorry, no FPOs — to win a print copy of the book of your choosing. If you have an international mailing address, then you will receive an electronic copy.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of one of these books, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, November 8th at 6:00 p.m. EST. Marina Rodriguez will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. Their name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, November 9th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Marina can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Marina will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – MEET WRITERS. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

8 thoughts on “Developing Stamina: Meet Writers Where They Are

  1. I really appreciate this breakdown of what goes into student writers’ stamina, as I think it is easy for us to get wrapped up in all of the expectations to “catch up” after last spring’s shutdown. One of the components expressed that really hit home for me was that we as teachers must be writing, too! As writing instructors, we too must be active writers. We must not only provide mentor texts, but model the act that we want to encourage itself. Thank you for your insight and comparisons!

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  2. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I’m thinking more about students capturing some slices of writing in my intervention time, and this was so much easier when I offered pens, notebooks and cozy spaces. Connecting writing to exercise reminds us that we all need some practice in developing stamina (I’ve got to find my yoga mat!) 🙂

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  3. It’s so hard to realize that things are not normal. We cannot expect it from ourselves or from our students. My exercise routine is something I have maintained. I find my morning walk more important than it ever was, for more than exercise, it leads me to peace of mind. Writing together online has been a huge challenge for me with my virtual class. I don’t like not being able to see my kids. I’ve started requiring them to let me know when they go to the bathroom which seems to happen in the middle of directions for writing more often than not. Baby steps. Thanks for your post and giving me a reality check. I need to let up on my expectations for this year. It just isn’t normal.


  4. This was a perfect analogy. We can’t pick up where we left off, but we can use what we know to get back on track. Stamina, in particular, is hard because we remember what we once could do, but forget how long it might have taken to get there. This post is part permission slip and pep talk! Thank you.

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  5. This is so good! I can relate to losing fitness during the pandemic, and the analogy with student writing works at every point. So much useful thought here. Ruth,


  6. I’ve been using push-ups as a way to explain stamina to my students!! I’m now at 30 but at the beginning of the year 25 was hard. Every once in a while a student will ask me, “Did you do your push-up this morning?” Thanks for the visuals. Fabulous!!

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