We've created this collection of hints, tips and suggestions to help children improve their writing stamina, a vital skill for their future education.
When we talk to teachers, one of the struggles that comes up again and again is writing stamina. KS1 and 2 children had a significant portion of their learning interrupted by the pandemic, and the effects are now being seen in the classroom.
Developing and increasing writing stamina is a crucial step towards becoming confident and proficient writers, which will open the doors to creativity, self-expression and life-long learning. So what can be done to try to increase children’s writing stamina across all ages?
Build a Foundation
Being able to hold a pen or pencil correctly, forming letters and overall hand and finger strength are the basis of writing stamina. Doing activities to help improve fine motor skills, even with older year groups, will help improve fine motor skills which will give children a strong foundation for writing. It doesn’t have to be limited to practising rows and rows of letters, which could get repetitive and reduce engagement. Try a variety including:
- practise letter formation in different mediums such as flour, shaving foam, paint, water, mud
- thread beads, Cheerios, paperclips etc. on string, wool or pipe cleaners
- make things out of play dough
- paint with squirt bottles or syringes
- make a challenge or game out of picking up items with tweezers or tongs
- build with Lego
- jigsaw puzzles
Little and often is the way to increase writing stamina. It’s no good asking pupils to write a sentence one week, then two weeks later asking them to write a 250 word story without anything in-between. It won’t happen. Use other topics and lessons to ensure they are getting small, frequent doses of writing practice. A list here, a sentence there. It doesn’t have to be connected to English or creative writing lessons, as long as they are writing something!
Set Realistic Goals
You wouldn’t expect to be able to run a marathon if you’ve only ever run a few metres, and it’s the same for writing. Start with small manageable targets and then gradually increase them as your pupils gain confidence. For example, start with simple descriptions of just a few words, then a sentence, then move on to writing two sentences at a time and so on until they’re ready to write a whole paragraph.
Take It Slow
Plan your writing over several lessons so pupils don’t feel the pressure of having to finish in one go. A whole story can seem daunting, but spending a lesson writing the beginning of a story? That’s achievable! It also takes away the fear of having to think of a complete piece of work. You can even spend a lesson planning before starting the main writing task, so pupils spend time thinking of their character and events without worrying about sentences yet.
Say It Out Loud
Ask your pupils to say their sentence out loud before they write it down. It can help them to remember what they want to write and keep the flow of their writing.
Record Their Ideas
Record children explaining what they are going to write about and what they intend to include. Then they can take their time listening back to it as they write, and can be used to remind them of their ideas if you’re splitting the writing over more than one session.
Give Writing Prompts
A blank page can be intimidating, so writing prompts are a great way to kick-start ideas. You could use:
- story starters
- image inspiration
- ‘what if’ scenarios
- sentence openers
- would you rather questions
- a character to write about
- an existing story to rewrite
- an event to recount
Allow pupils to work in pairs or small groups to collaborate and write a story together. They should take it in turns to suggest a sentence so that everyone contributes. You could also begin a piece of writing as a whole class. Write or dictate the beginning sentence to get them going, ask for suggestions on the next sentence or two to add to the piece, then ask pupils to finish the rest independently.
Set a timer for 1 minute, or if you think that’s too long, start with 30 seconds. Challenge your pupils to write down a list of as many things they can think of in that time, based on a theme you can give them. For example:
- TV shows
- book characters
You can be more specific or give harder lists based on your class’s ability, and can even connect the list to your topic or reading book. It’s a fun challenge that will exercise their writing stamina, and for older children you can turn it into a points-scoring game to get them interested – score a point for every answer they write down that no one else has on their list.
Let them write whatever they want! If some children don’t feel inspired by set writing tasks, see if you can find time in your week to let their imaginations run riot. No rules, no limits, just writing. Whether they come out with a story, a poem, a list of their favourite things or even a stream of consciousness about how they don’t like writing and don’t have anything to write about, it all adds to their writing stamina!
Write for an Audience
Having a purpose for writing is a great way to motivate children – if they know why they are writing they are more likely to write more. Purposes could include:
- sharing writing with teacher or TA
- swapping stories with another class in your school
- reading aloud in a showcase either to the rest of the class or in a school assembly
- teaming up with another school in your area to become pen pals
- writing a letter to a friend, relative, author, book character or Santa!
- entering a competition for the chance to be published and win a prize – see our competitions here!
Foster a Love of Reading
It’s a cliché for a reason – it’s true! If time allows, let pupils choose and read the book they want to read. Don’t worry about age range or ability. If that book grabs their interest, let them read it! The more you can get your pupils to read, the more their own writing skills will improve. Exposing pupils to different writing styles, voices, genres will give them a library of inspiration they can use when writing.
Offer Encouragement, Positive Feedback and Recognition
Support and encouragement are vital, no matter how much or how little a pupil manages to write. Highlighting the effort made and what they’ve done well can help to boost confidence. For writing stamina, focus on the amount they’ve written rather than the quality of the writing; that can come later. For now, recognise what they’ve achieved and give feedback or encouragement to help them write a little bit more next time.
Building writing stamina in young writers can be a slow process, but by setting achievable goals, offering positive reinforcement and offering a variety of writing activities, you will get results. Every small step forward is a giant leap towards confident and proficient writers, and with your guidance and support, your pupils will unlock a world of possibilities through their words!
Here at Young Writers our passion is creating a love of writing in children, and we know that seeing their work in print is a fantastic motivator as it gives them a purpose for writing. We try to accept as many pupils as possible for this exact reason, and every pupil accepted for publication will receive a certificate of merit, and all entrants will receive a bookmark whether they are chosen for publication or not.
See our competitions for all ages here.