A Strong Front

TECHNIQUES #40 & 41:  Build Stamina & Front the Writing

mind166Two great writing strategies that could almost be integrated as one.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, writing in the World Language classroom, sustained, complex writing, is typically, not high on the hierarchy of skills executed during class.  The level and quantity of writing that students are capable of producing, say in a Spanish I or II class differs dramatically from what the same students are capable of writing in their English, Social Studies or Science classes.  The same argument might be put forth for Math classrooms; the instances of sustained writing tasks decreases, simply because of the content area.

Build Stamina, #40 asks the teacher to: ‘Gradually increase writing time to develop in your students the habit of writing productively, and the ability to do it for sustained periods of time.’,(p299)¹.    The sustained writing, productively, should fill the space of approximately 6-8minutes; “intentionally and diligently, all the way through to the end”.   These independent writing blocks are not intended as tasks that will be formally evaluated; the purpose is to consistently provide time, in class, that is dedicated to thoughtful, rigorous writing.  Essentially, build mini-writing workshops frequently into your lesson plans.  However, it’s not a flowery, open imagery, progressive-y type of ‘Writers Workshop’.  This is pencils raised, timer set, and a well emphasized “Go!” from the teacher to begin.

what (259x624)In Advance:  In order to avoid large spaces of unproductive writing time, teachers can do the following to Build Stamina:

  • Offer students a wide variety of prompts; perhaps a central, key theme phrases in several different ways.  Or, a choice of topics, based on one particular piece of reading or lesson theme.
  • Add a layer of accountability.  Let the students know before they being writing that you look forward to reading their work later.  Or, notify them of a Show Call; student work on display usually drives them to be more rigorous and thoughtful in their work.
  • Ask students to recall what they should do if they get stuck.  This lets students know that they are expected to be writing from the word go until the timer beeps.


  • Here are some tactics that students should become familiar with and be able to recall hourglassfor the teacher prior to a Build Stamina mini writing workshop; it might be helpful to have a poster or image with these tools for sustained writing around for this pre-game writing prep talk:
  • Prime the Pump: “Ok, lightening-quick brain storm.  Let’s hear 3 things you might write about. “Go!”
  • Show images related to the topic.  Provide a silent visual brain storm. “GO!”
  • Reword the previous statement using Appositive word choices, Describe what it is NOT.”Go!”
  • Find a new voice.  Reword your idea as your grandmother might phrase it, as a person from a foreign country might view the idea. “Go!”
  • Think of a noun that represents your topic; define that noun. “Go!”


The following tactics are woven into Build Stamina over the course of the school year and with every attempt to ask students to write in class.

Practice Success Essentially, asking for eight non-stop minutes of sustained writing hasvictoriwrtier to become a reality gradually.  Using Art of the Sentence #38 to begin the school year can eventually evolve into Build Stamina over the course of time.  Start out with smaller chunks of time initially.  3minutes, becomes 4mins, etc.  Lemov prescribes: “I might encourage a teacher I was working with to use an Art of the Sentence prompt in just about every lesson and a stamina-based prompt every couple of days.”,(p.302)¹.

stock-photo-fixing-education-and-school-crisis-concept-as-an-image-of-a-vintage-student-desk-being-erased-by-a-129862631Pencils Moving/Outlawing Erasers:  This one is great; No Erasing Allowed!  This raised my eyebrows at first. (My personal nemesis is pencil sharpening).   However, the argument against erasers is compelling.  Here’s the reality: “Erasing is easier than writing: it doesn’t require students to create or develop any ideas…students can exactingly, laboriously, tediously erase every last bit of graphite from their page…a college of mine calls it “slow play”…Add a word. Nope, erase, Add again.  Look inquisitive.  Nope, erase. Time’s up!”.   Consistently, reinforce, with consistent language: “I need to see all pencils moving” or “All pencils moving”.

Valorize Student Writing:  Using precise praise, reading student work aloud with specially emphasis and tone (Show Call) or asking students to read their work aloud as a reward.  Ascribing value to written student work is an importance piece toward polishing up the outward appearance & less aesthetic characteristics of Build Stamina.

stars (2)Build Stamina is clearly a means toward success in standardized timed writing assessments, such as the SAT.  Again, the subtitle of our text¹ here is:  ’62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College’.  “As students advance in their educational careers, they will increasingly find themselves in situations where they must makes sense of a text…It is certainly how they will write papers in college…[is]what they’ll have to do on the SAT to get to college at all.”(p.305)¹.

Here is a video clip ‘Writing to Learn‘ from the Teaching Channel.  Teachers from this consortium of public & private schools base some of their professional development and teaching strategies from Teach Like A Champion 2.0¹ techniques.  ‘Writing to Learn‘ is a good off shoot of Build Stamina, has a little more heart and soul, geared more toward thoughtful writing as opposed to the timed, non-stop quality of the TLAC technique.  The difference here is that the teacher, Andrea Culver and her colleagues refer to it as ‘Low Stakes Writing’.

Front the Writing #41 :is a simple technique, yet, if put into place might be very effective.  As it reads, Front the Writing states:  ‘Arrange lessons so that writing comes earlier in the process to ensure that students think rigorously in writing'(p.303)¹.  As I interpret it, Front the Writing is a restructuring of the traditional lesson plan (where/when do writing tasks happen in the class) and as a means to prevent Copy Cats from copying, (referred to in the text as Piggybacking).  “…think rigorously in writing” is a polite way of saying come up with you own ideas; have an original thought.idea

Traditionally, the two most common sequences in the writing process are RDW (read-discuss-write) or ADW (activity-discuss-write).  Frequently, the last task on the list: writing, is easy to scrap when you run out of time.  Writing tasks can easily be assigned as homework; as long as the reading/discussion piece take place, all is well in land of lesson execution.  Front the Writing asks that you arrange the lesson so the the writing comes earlier in the process.  “One of the simplest ways to add rigor to the writing your students do is to shift the cycle from RDW or ADW to: Read-Write-Discuss RWD or to Activity-Write-Discuss AWD.  Using timed writing as a linking task, prior to discussion (students are apt to develop more original thoughts before listening to others discussion their ideas) and not at the end of the class period when, potentially, you run out of time. Placing the discussion after the reading is somewhat word16novel; training students and ourselves to think of discussion “as a tool to revise and amend, ” our original opinions.  After reading, and before discussion, ask students “…to write an opinion or analysis and then listen to the discussion with the understanding that the next step will be to revise their opinion…in writing.”,(p.307)¹.

” Because writing is “the coin of the realm”-the standard currency in which ideas are exchanged in school and in life there after-it’s important (and rigorous) to use a final writing exercise to assess how much your students know or to allow them to process and synthesize ideas.”, (p. 304)¹.



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