Saturday, July 20, 2013

Running, Reading, and Building Stamina

Today I decided to "get off the couch" and begin moving again.  I have taken some time off from running and working out, and I am really starting to feel the effects.  In knowing that I need to re-energize myself and increase my overall well-being, I began the Couch-to-5K program today.  I have the app installed on my phone, and I've used the app at various times to ease back into this thing called "running."  As I was in the midst of one of the running intervals, I began to think about how our students will also be getting back into a thing called "reading" when they begin school in just a few short weeks.  Chances are they have not done much reading over the summer and will be in a situation much like mine in which they are, in a sense, starting over.

As I ran, I had some of my favorite music playing.  I got to choose the songs I had in my playlist, and they were from many different genres.  Most of the songs were songs I have played again and again and know by heart.  A few of them were newer songs that I just added this morning.  This got me thinking about how important it is to allow our students to choose their own reading material, even when they choose books they may have read multiple times.  Of course we don't want them to always choose the books they have previously read, but if we take the time to allow them to "build their playlist" by adding a variety of books to their book boxes, they will have many options.  My music motivates me because it is something I enjoy, much like the books our students enjoy motivate them and can be the impetus for them to continue reading. Let's remember to take the time to help our students build their personal playlists--good-fit books from a wide variety of genres.

If you are not familiar with the C25K program, it is an incremental program that alternates running and walking in increments that gradually increase throughout the program until you are running the entire time. The app has a voice-over that will tell you when to walk and when to run.  Just knowing that that voice would be coming back on and telling me I could walk was a motivator for me as well.  I knew that I only needed to make it just a little bit further before I could take a bit of a break and walk.  The program is allowing me to take baby steps in increasing my endurance.  The same holds true for our students.  We should not expect them to be able to sit and read for 20-30 minutes straight right out of the gate.  They need to have increments in which they read, take a break, and read again in order to increase the amount of time they will be able to attend to the task.  As teachers, it is our job to be sure that we allow for this critical build up of endurance and give our students the chance to take a breath every now and then.

The app also allows you to keep track of your time per mile and distance and has a journal feature that allows you to make anecdotal comments about the run.  This has always been a very motivating factor for me.  I am a very competitive person and like to challenge myself and see if I can improve from session to session.  We can do the same for our students.  Charting their stamina by the number of minutes they were able to read and allowing them to see their gains is also another way we can motivate our students and allow them to see their small successes gradually building into more and more time they are able to read without taking a break.

Soon, we will begin the school year and begin the journey of reading with our students.  I hope all educators will remember that we will need to support our students in building their reading stamina.  If we take the time to help them do this in the beginning, we will have them "reading marathons" in no time.