Why might a distance runner train by running sprints? Practicing in short, high-intensity intervals is a strategy that helps these runners improve overall speed and endurance. Short intervals are also motivating. I remember my Track coach shouting to us from the bleachers during these types of workouts in high school. “It’s only a minute! You can do anything for a minute!” he’d yell as we sprinted around the track.

Similarly, the Read Naturally Strategy’s use of one-minute readings provides students with frequent, motivating feedback. Practicing a passage in one-minute increments allows students of any age to experience success, and the repetition helps build stamina.

But as any distance runner knows, sprint training alone is not enough. To develop their capacity to endure a marathon, runners also need to train for increasingly long distances. Likewise, readers must be challenged to read for longer stretches of time in order to keep improving. This is why we recommend switching from one-minute to whole-story timings during the practice and pass timed-reading steps when students are ready.

We recommend that all students make the switch to whole-story timings by level 5.6. Many students will display the confidence and ability for whole-story timings much sooner. As the stories get longer, many students are interested enough in the topic to want to read to the end. When you observe this desire or when the student seems capable, make the switch.

Students doing whole-story timings still get words-correct-per-minute (wcpm) scores so that teachers can track this growth over time. In Read Live and SE, the computer calculates the wcpm score based on the whole-story score. For Encore and ME students, a words-per-minute timer does this calculation.

Encourage your students to work hard during their one-minute “sprints” to prepare for the upcoming challenge of longer passages. And the first time they tackle the distance, celebrate them like they’ve just completed their first marathon. In many ways, they have.

More information on building reading stamina can be found here. And as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions or comments!