If you’ve been following this blog series you should have a great start on how to launch your writing workshop.  However, you may be thinking, “Great, I’ve got all of these assignments and plans, but what will the students actually DO during the day? How will I make sure they learn anything?” The answer, my dear friend, is Mini-Lessons.

Mini-Lessons are short lessons that focus on teaching a specific skill.  I typically hold mini-lessons three days a week, leaving one day for discussion and one day for synchronous editing (I’ll be posting on that next!).  Think you’ve got a great concept for a mini-lesson?  Use my flowchart below to see how it would work in the Writing Workshop, or scroll to the bottom of this post for some tips and tricks.

writing workshop mini lessons.jpg

Tip #1: Mini-Lessons should be mini

  • Focus on one specific skill, not an overarching idea
  • These will be basic ideas – think the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  These are the building block skills needed to get to the higher levels of thinking.
  • Don’t use an entire Common Core Standard, use one concept within the standard
  • Usually a Common Core ELA standard can be taught over the course of a week’s Mini-Lessons
    • Example: Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.(RL7.6) becomes:
      • Day One:  What are different points of view?
      • Day Two:  Classify a point of view and identify plot elements you know because of that point of view
      • Day Three:  Explain how a plot event would be different if told from a different point of view

Some mini-lessons I use involve: Identifying mood in setting, labeling different types of characters, any specific grammar lessons, identifying points of view, identifying different types of figurative language, determining the difference in connotation and denotation, determining an author’s tone, identifying a theme, using transitions, writing narrative leads, using dialogue tags, eliminating wordiness, creating thesis statements…

Tip #2:  Mini-Lessons Aren’t For Everyone

  • If someone knows a skill, they should be able to continue to work on their writing instead of re-learning something they know
  • Always allow people to test out of mini-lessons if they are over a specific skill
  • Some mini-lessons may be good for the whole class – choose those carefully

Tip #3:  Save Your “Knock it out of the ballpark” Lessons for full lessons

  • Remember the mantra:  Mini-Lessons should be mini.  If your lesson is too elaborate, it will take the entire class time
  • Feel free to grab resources or fall back on more standard ways of teaching.

One website I use for mini-lessons is ReadWorks.  This is a fantastic tool for finding skill-specific resources.

Need ideas for a specific mini-lesson?  Email or Tweet me and I will help you out!