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Home » Blog » Tips to Help Kids Build Stamina in 1st Grade Reading & Writing

Tips to Help Kids Build Stamina in 1st Grade Reading & Writing

Social Skills

Written by: Katie Palmer

The beginning stage of the year is over, and teachers are itching to dig into content and small group instruction. However, there is a problem. 1st graders can lack the stamina to sit down and get work done! (For sure not long enough for teachers to successfully run small groups!) So, how can stamina in 1st grade be improved? In this post, we will share a few of our favorite teacher tested stamina building ideas to add to your ever growing toolbox.

What is an Acceptable Amount of Stamina in 1st Grade?

Before we dig into the strategies, just how long can 1st grade teachers expect their young learners to be able to work on a task? At this age, it's reasonable to expect 1st graders to focus on tasks for about 10 to 20 minutes at a time. However, in a class with many learners, there will also be many different ability levels, attention spans and other factors. Teachers need to know independent work stamina is an ever increasing ability, and will need to provide students support and guidance to continue to build this skill.

Build Up Your Students' Stamina

Let's explore tips for increasing student work time, allowing you to concentrate on the diverse needs of individual and small group learners in your classroom.

Set a Timer

At the beginning of the year, a great practice can be setting a timer or stopwatch, and graphing stamina progress. Hiding the timer from the students is best to prevent distractions.

A writing stamina goal anchor chart.

Here are the steps:

  • Remind students they are working to improve their independent work stamina.
  • Review what independent work time should look like.
  • Set the timer and tell students to begin their work time. Quietly walk around and assist if needed, or watch from the front or back of the room.
  • When a student(s) is off task, stop the timer.
  • Graph the successful completion of minutes of reading/working.
  • Celebrate each jump in the graph.

Make it Engaging

As a 1st grade teacher, you have an amazing opportunity! You, being one of your students' first teachers, can build their love of learning and school. One way to do this is to demonstrate that learning can be fun! When possible, use engaging stories, provide engaging independent reading materials, or have them write about a favorite memory/toy/show, etc.. When students are engaged, they will keep working!

A student working on writing stamina with a 1st grade writing prompt.

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Model It

Before sending students off to work on their own, be sure to model it, model it, model it! Before students can demonstrate expected behaviors, they need to be shown what these behaviors/situations should look like. In my classroom, we create a chart of expected behaviors for independent work time. Then, I call on student volunteers to model these behaviors. For the giggles, and a better understanding of what I expect, I model incorrect behaviors. Not only does this bring out the giggles, students may become self aware of how they have been behaving during independent work time. Then, we make sure to end the lesson with another student volunteer modeling the correct strategy.

Students working in a small group with the small group rules posters displayed.

Use a Story

Share a picture book with students that depicts students being able to work independently. Here are a couple of team favorites.

The Magical Yet

Following the story of a little girl learning to ride a bike, this story will teach students to not give up and push through.

The Little Engine That Could

A timeless classic teaching students they can do whatever they set their mind to!

Special Tip to Increase Writing Stamina in 1st Grade

Writing is its own monster. Many students struggle to even get started. Here is a list of quick tips to improve student writing stamina.

  • Create a list of things students can write about. This list should be filled with things students enjoy and are knowledgeable about. (Think: memories, hobbies or friends.) Have students write this list on the inside cover of their writing notebook.
  • Glue in a “What Can I Write About?” anchor chart into the back covers of their writing notebooks.
A "What Can I Write About" anchor chart for students.
  • Draw pictures first. If you are hoping to have students write a short story, allow them to draw a picture of each sentence first. Then, they need to point at each picture and vocalize what they are going to write about. This will make the writing ideas flow!

What Should Students Work on Independently?

If you are looking for work for your 1st graders to complete independently, Lucky Little Learners has got you covered! With over 18,000 resources and growing, we have engaging activities ready for the ENTIRE school year! Are you ready to access it all? Browse our collections below.


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