During the month of February I hosted a Writing Marathon for 4th and 5th grade students at my school. We (yes, I wrote with them) wrote for 26 out of 28 days, at least 30 minutes a day.
Writing daily, like any other habit, takes time to develop. It takes getting into a routine. And when it gets hard, it means you just have to keep going.
I came up with the idea because I thought it would help students develop writing fluency and stamina.
1) Build it into the day.
For us, it worked better to do it before school started. Kids could come in at 7:30 and work until 8:00, when class started. Many kids have sport and other activities after school. Not every student was able to come in early, so we allowed them to work from home.
2) Provide an atmosphere.
We provided granola bars, in case kids didn’t get breakfast on the rush to be at school early. Each day I provided a writing prompt, if they wanted to use it. Others didn’t really want to. They busied themselves writing chapters books of their own. I even provided low music. I prefer classical music that just soothes them as they write. It also keeps them from engaging in conversation instead of writing. I also wrote with the students. I made daily and monthly goals, and I outlined a particular project I wanted to work on. I worked on it during that time. Typically all you could hear in the room was the quiet music and the soft tap-tap-tapping of the keys.
3) Provide incentives.
I’ve never run a marathon, but I can’t imagine that you run one just to get a medal in the end. The medal itself probably doesn’t motivate you to keep going through months of training or even keep going after a few miles. Something more must make you keep pushing. However, when all is said and done, it’s nice to have something to show for you work. In the same way, I thought I needed to have some reward for students who participated. Finishers all received a certificate, a journal, and a fancy pen. Top word count and top time in each grade level received a book about writing.
Stay tuned next week when I’ll share all of the materials I used (including printables) for the Writing Marathon.