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Are you looking for ideas to help your students become successful writers? This post outlines the table of contents for 30+ writing mini lessons that has proven to help students write effectively. It will provide you with creative ideas to teach students sentence structure, paragraph writing, and narrative writing. It will walk you through the writing process in a step-by-step order that scaffolds and builds upon each other. These ideas are ideal for any writing curriculum and writer’s workshop.
1. Writing Mini Lesson 1- Brainstorming for Interactive Notebooks
2. Writing Mini Lesson 2- Complete Sentences
3. Writing Mini Lesson 3- Fragments
4. Writing Mini Lesson 4- Run-On Sentences
5. Writing Mini Lesson 5- How to Teach Paragraph Writing
6. Writing Mini Lesson 6- Relevant Details
7. Writing Mini Lesson 7- Closing Sentences and Clinchers
8. Writing Mini Lesson 8- Table of Contents and Progress Grade for Notebooks
9. Writing Mini Lesson 9- The Writing Process
10. Writing Mini Lesson 10- 3 Steps to Prepare for Narrative Writing
11. Writing Mini Lesson 11- Prewriting for Narrative Writing
12. Writing Mini Lesson 12- Task, Purpose, Audience for Narrative Writing
13. Writing Mini Lesson 13- Setting Writing Goals
14. Writing Mini Lesson 14- Graphic Organizers for Narrative Writing
15. Writing Mini Lesson 15- Plot
16. Writing Mini Lesson 16- Writing an Introduction for a Narrative Essay
17. Writing Mini Lesson 17- Writing the Body Section of a Narrative Essay
18. Writing Mini Lesson 18- Building Suspense and Climax in a Narrative Essay
19. Writing Mini Lesson 19- Developing Characters in a Narrative Essay
20. Writing Mini Lesson 20- Dialogue in a Narrative Essay
21. Writing Mini Lesson 21- Writing the Conclusion of a Narrative Essay
22. Writing Mini Lesson 22- Writing a Rough Draft for a Narrative Essay
23. Writing Mini Lesson 23- Revising a Narrative Essay
24. Writing Mini Lesson 24- Revising a Narrative Essay- DELETE
25. Writing Mini Lesson 25- Revising a Narrative Essay- ADD- Transition Words
26. Writing Mini Lesson 26- Revising a Narrative Essay- REARRANGE
27. Writing Mini Lesson 27- Revising a Narrative Essay- EXCHANGE- Rockin Beginnings
28. Writing Mini Lesson 28- Million Dollar Words- WORD CHOICE
29. Writing Mini Lesson 29- Variety of Sentences
30. Writing Mini Lesson 30- Jammin Conclusion of a Narrative Essay
31. Writing Mini Lesson 31- Crafting a Title
32. Writing Mini Lesson 32- CUPS to Edit
33. Writing Mini Lesson 33- CUPS to Edit- Capitalization
34. Writing Mini Lesson 34- CUPS to Edit- Usage
35. Writing Mini Lesson 35- CUPS to Edit- Punctuation
36. Writing Mini Lesson 36- CUPS to Edit- Spelling
37. Writing Mini Lesson 37- Peer Reflections
38. Writing Mini Lesson 38- Final Copies
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Writing workshop mini-lessons: how to keep the mini-lesson mini.
Are you ready to try using mini-lessons in your writing workshop but you're not sure how you can ever fit all the things into such a short time? Don't worry, you CAN fit it all in. So, let's talk about mini-lessons!
You can focus on a specific skill in a short time by considering what type of mini-lesson you will teach, by using mentor text to support your focus skill, and trusting that your workshop model will allow for independent time to put that skill to work!
So let's do this!
What is a mini-lesson?
A mini-lesson is a whole group lesson that focuses on a specific skill. It should be about 5-10 minutes long…hence the name “mini.”
The skill that you teach in your mini-lesson should be something you want students to practice in their own writing. They will use what they learned in the mini-lesson to apply to their own writing.
The mini-lesson gives you the opportunity to show examples and share strategies that will motivate your students and give ideas for their writing.
Mini-lessons allow us to model strategies in a whole group setting through mentor text, anchor charts, and examples. By breaking down a skill in this “mini” time together, you are simplifying the complex parts of writing and allowing students to break down their own writing process as they leave the whole group and enter their independent writing time.
Types of mini-lessons
There are four types of mini-lessons:
- Routines and procedures of writing workshop:.
- Strategies for writing (thinking of ideas, writing process).
- Skills (paragraph writing, using quotation marks, run-on sentences, etc.).
- Writer’s Craft (writing a strong lead, wrap up conclusions).
When planning your mini-lesson, considering the type of mini-lesson you want to focus on will help guide your planning.
From mini-lesson to major lesson
Sometimes we have mini-lessons that turn into major lessons!
The 5-10 minute mini-lesson can quickly turn into 25-30 minutes…it happens so easily! You may feel like you are teaching the skill as best you can, but a problem arises when your mini-lesson runs long; you are cutting into student independent writing time.
Students will not be able to use the strategies taught if they don't have time to apply them. The independent writing time is such an important part of writing workshop, so don't cut it short!
To make sure that your mini-lesson stays mini, jam pack the lesson with content that is important and meaningful to what your students are working on. And then don't be afraid to let them go to do their own writing!
You can use writing conferences to re-target the mini-lesson skill for writers that you may have noticed were struggling.
What do I do in a writing workshop mini-lesson?
So, now we know all about mini-lessons and planning, but what do we actually DO in the writing mini-lesson?
Use a mentor text
Reading a mentor text during a mini-lesson is a great way to introduce a skill. BUT, reading a whole book aloud to your class AND THEN discussing the focus skill can sometimes take more than the 5-10 minutes you have allotted for the mini-lesson, and we know we don't want to cut into the independent reading time!
Here's a few ways to use mentor text but still keeping your lesson mini…
- Use a book that you have already read with your class. Give a quick refresher or summary of the book and discuss the skill you are focusing on.
- Read a snippet of the book that displays the focus skill. You do not need to read the whole book to hone in on a skill.
- Split the book into two mini-lessons and read part of the book on day 1 and part of the book on day 2.
- Split the mini-lesson into two days and read the book one day and create an anchor chart based on the skill the next day.
Create an anchor chart
Anchor charts are a great way to focus on a specific skill in a mini-lesson. Creating an anchor chart during a mini-lesson is a great way for students to discuss the skill and see examples right in front of them.
When you include your students in the process of creating the anchor chart by sharing examples and ideas, they are more likely to remember and refer back to the anchor chart as a reference.
I love cute, Instagram-worthy anchor charts as much as the next teacher…but the anchor chart is meant to be a tool used to support instruction and is MORE than just a poster in the classroom.
The content that you pack in to your anchor chart is what matters! And when you are modeling and working with students to share specific strategies that will improve their writing, they are sure to walk away from your mini-lesson full of ideas to apply to their own writing.
Keep the lesson focused
Keep the mini-lesson quick and focused on the skill. It's easy to get wrapped up in the book or discussions you are having, but keep it short and sweet!
Give an action item
Give an action item so that when your students leave the whole group instruction, they know how they will apply this skill to their own writing. They will walk away from your mini-lesson ready to write!!
Let's do this!
Okay, let's do this!
Here is a peek at your super focused, short but sweet, jam packed with all the things, engaging content mini-lesson:
- Gather as a whole group to your special spot where all the whole group magic happens. Get right to business to keep it mini…no small talk!
- Let them know the skill we will be focusing on today, give a quick statement/info about that skill.
- Read aloud a short book or short snippet from a book (lots of theatrics here to keep them engaged and to make it memorable).
- Point out specific parts in the book that model the focus skill.
- Create an anchor chart packed with content about the focus skill.
- Discuss how they can apply this skill to their own writing and give an action item to work on during independent writing.
All that in less than 10 minutes! PHEW! I wasn't joking…it is jam packed with content in a short time!
Your students should leave your whole group mini-lesson excited about the ideas swirling in their head! The right mentor text can get their wheels turning, an anchor chart serves as a reference, and a short discussion can give them some great ideas. When you hear students buzzing as they are getting back to their writing, talking about what they will write next, you know you've had a successful mini-lesson.
You can grab a free planning page and a list of all of my favorite mentor text to use in writing workshop mini-lessons.
Everything you for launching writing workshop mini-lessons and more:
You can find done for you mini-lessons and more for the entire year with writing workshop units here:
You may also enjoy:
5 Mini-Lessons to Teach Procedural Writing
A Guide to Meaningful Reading Conferences
A Quick Fix for Student’s Spelling …
Teacher Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences
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writers workshop mini lesson list of ideas
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Writers Workshop Unit 4 Persuasive Writing of All Kinds: Words to Make a Change
Writers Workshop Personal Narrative Writing Process Unit
Also included in: Launching Reading and Writing Workshop Bundle
2nd and 3rd grade Writer's Workshop minilessons
- Word Document File
Launching the Writing Workshop unit 1
Also included in: Writing Workshop Through the Year Bundle Complete unit 1-4
Launching Writer's Workshop | Minilessons to Build & Grow Writers
Also included in: Writer's Workshop Curriculum || Minilessons for a school year
Mentor Texts for Writing Workshop
Kindergarten Writing Workshop Bundle Units 1-5 Foundational Skills Mini Lessons
2nd Grade Small Moments
Writing Workshop for Beginners
Learning Common Core Through Writer's Workshop
Writing Workshop in Spanish unit 1 (TALLER DE ESCRITURA)
Also included in: Taller de escritura :Writing Bundle Complete in Spanish unit 1-4
Taller de escritura :Writing Bundle Complete in Spanish unit 1-4
Grammar & Vocabulary Notebook Charts
1st Grade Small Moments Writing Unit
The Raft By S.A. Bodeen A Complete Novel Study
Mini Lessons for Reader's Workshop for 2nd and 3rd grade
Kindergarten Small Moments Writing Unit
Writer's Workshop: Lists and Patterns by Kim Adsit aligned with Common Core
Also included in: Writer's Workshop Mega Bundle by Kim Adsit
Character Traits Unit Fun
Writer's Workshop: Informational Writing by Kim Adsit aligned with Common Core
Rudolph Creative Writing Unit for Writer's Workshop
Writer's Workshop for Kindergarten and First Grade
Launching the Writing Workshop - Start of Year Writing Unit
Writer's Notebook Resources for Writing Workshop
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The mini-lesson is a period of direct and explicit instruction. Teach only one literacy objective and be explicit in explaining how learning this teaching point will help your children as writers.
Writing Workshop Mini Lesson - Writers Start With A Feeling
Use a gradual release model, where first you demonstrate the teaching point and then the children practice it with your guidance. The mini-lesson supports children in seeing the teaching point in action and then practicing it. Linking the work they just did with you to the work they will do on their own helps prepare them for writing independently during work time.
Gather the children together in the whole group meeting area for your lessons and their sense of themselves as a community of writers will develop as well.
Writing Workshop begins with a mini-lesson which allows you to offer your children direct instruction on a writing skill, strategy, or behavior that the majority of them need. There are four distinct parts to a mini-lesson. This formal architecture makes it easier for you to plan and easier for the children to know what is expected of them and what will take place. The four parts are:
Set the context by describing the learning that has been taking place. Explain what you’ll be teaching them (that is, what the literacy objective is) and why it will help them as readers.
In this part, blend together explanation and demonstration. Explain what your demonstration will be, then model the behavior, skill, or strategy. Additionally, in order to help children “see” what is happening as you write a piece of text, for example, think aloud about your process.
Give the children hands-on practice with the teaching point and assess their understanding. This takes place while the children are still in front of you in the large group meeting area.
Restate the teaching point one more time. Encourage the children to plan and commit to applying it in their independent work.
Remember, the mini-lesson is designed to be brief in order to make sure that the majority of time during Writing Workshop is devoted to children writing. By sticking to this architecture and keeping questions and discussion to a minimum, you’ll be able to do just that. Offering consistent language scaffolds throughout will ensure that your language learners are included and supported as well. Let’s explore each part of the mini-lesson in more detail.
The “connect” is the first part of the mini-lesson and important because it sets the stage for children’s learning. Consider the language your children will need to know or be familiar with in order for the lesson to be successful, and the scaffolds you can use to support them.
Start by contextualizing the lesson.
Are you sharing a new skill or strategy that is part of a larger unit? If so, let your children know. For example,
- “We have been working on adding details to make our writing more interesting. Today I want to share a new strategy with you that you might find helpful.”
Have you noticed many children exhibiting the same need and you want to address that need in your mini-lesson? If so, state it here. For example,
- “I noticed many of you are having difficulty thinking of a title for your piece, so let me share with you one strategy I use when I want to give my writing a title that will grab my readers’ attention.”
Did you see one child doing something new or extraordinary during work time and you want to share it with the rest of the class? If so, tell the children about it here. For example,
- “I noticed Simone solving a problem all by herself. She ‘read the room’ when she wasn’t sure how to spell a word. Let me show you all how to do that.”
You can tie this lesson to the learning that has been taking place in other areas of literacy or content area instruction. For example,
- “Writers, today I was reading I Dissent [show the book] to you and while I was reading it, I was thinking of questions I would ask Justice Ginsburg if I were writing her biography. I realized that even when you have a whole book filled with information, you can still come up with more questions!”
Then name your teaching point simply and explicitly. Explain why you are going to teach this idea. This allows the children to understand the importance of the skill or strategy. Cue your children so they get ready for the teaching point. Use familiar language such as, “Today, I am going to teach you,” or “Today you will learn…” Also, address language supports that will be needed to implement the teaching point for your language learners. For example,
- “Today, I am going to teach you how thoughtful writers decide what to write about. Choosing a topic wisely is important because we need to make sure we have enough to say about a particular topic! Since we will be writing All About books, we need to be able to give our readers lots of information about whatever topic we choose.”
During the mini-lesson you have the opportunity to let children “see” what your teaching point looks like. Through a combination of explaining, demonstrating, and thinking aloud, you can help make the implicit decision (an author’s decision while writing) explicit.
In every mini-lesson, you will want to give children guided practice with the teaching point. This active engagement portion of the mini-lesson, also called “have-a-go,” occurs when the children are still gathered together in close proximity on the rug and should only take a few minutes. Remember to match the have-a-go to your teaching point so the children have some hands-on practice in preparation for their independent application of the skills or strategy later on. For example, if you demonstrated for the children how to capitalize proper nouns in a letter, then the have-a-go will allow them the chance to identify words that need to be capitalized in a letter. This important component of the lesson ensures that children have an opportunity to apply the new strategy with guided support. Trying it out helps children remember what you taught so they can use this strategy or technique during work time or at some later point when they need it. Sometimes, it makes the most sense for children to have-a-go by looking at their own work. In this case, make sure to invite children to bring their writing folders or notebooks with them to the carpet when you gather them for the mini-lesson.
There are several ways to hold a have-a-go:
Be sure to circulate among the children during the have-a-go. In this way, this guided practice time also offers you a quick assessment of how they are managing this new skill, strategy, or behavior and you can identify individuals (or groups of children) who may need extra practice.
As you consider the diverse needs of your children, remember pairing as a possible support structure for children to begin to master the new strategy or technique.
Before you send your children off to work independently, offer them some guidelines so they feel prepared to begin the thoughtful work of active writing. Make sure to reiterate your teaching point and direct the children to think about how they can use the teaching point that was made.
Restate the teaching point.
Use the same language in the link as you have in your connection and teaching. Consistent language with identified scaffolds (for example, key vocabulary with visual cues, sentence frames, etc.) will assist children in understanding what is asked of them. For example, if you called your teaching “hook your readers” in your connection, then restate it the same way in your link. Consistency in your scaffolds will also ensure all children know exactly what supports they can access when working independently.
Direct children’s independent work.
It’s important to remember that not every child in your class has to commit to working on that specific skill or strategy. For example, if you taught your second graders to add details, not every child may be finished their initial write and ready to add details yet. However, this is a tool that they now have exposure to and they can add to their writer’s toolbox to pull out when necessary . We can convey the expectation that children should try this at some point – in the next workshop or during the following week. Oftentimes, children are motivated to try what we taught when we end the mini-lesson by saying, “ If you try this strategy today, please let me know. ” Be sure you have provided an alternative for what they can do during their independent work.
- You can ask the children, for example, to give you a “thumbs up” if they feel ready to use the new skill or strategy, or a “thumbs down” if they have a few more questions and would like to talk more with you on the rug before beginning their work.
- Ask for a show of hands. “Raise your hand if you think you can try this strategy in your writing today.”
- Suggest that children incorporate what you’ve taught into their plans. “If you plan to try this today, write a note to yourself at the top of your page (an ‘assignment box’) to remind you to work on that.”
Then, dismiss them from the whole group meeting area to their writing spots. Make sure to be consistent in this transition so it occurs in a smooth and orderly fashion.
Be aware that language learners may not advocate for themselves in the ways suggested above; therefore, make sure you have embedded extra check-ins with them during work time.
Thank you for putting up the videos and the notes. Very useful for my writing lessons. Going to try out the ideas for the new school term in 2020.
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A Teacher's Guide to Writing Workshop Minilessons
The classroom essentials series.
By Lisa Eickholdt , Patricia Vitale-Reilly
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In writing workshop, the minilesson allows teachers to connect a lesson—often one that is mandated by a set of standards, a district curriculum, or a grade-level unit plan—to the specific objectives you have, as well as to the cultural knowledge and experiences of your students. Lisa Eickholdt and Patricia Vitale-Reilly explain the four-part structure of minilessons and share methodologies and tools, including charts, visuals, and materials that you can use to make your minilessons efficient and engaging for all students. With tips on inclusive practices, how to deliver minilessons in different instructional settings, and assessment, you’ll have everything you need to get started with writing workshop minilessons.
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My 5 Favorite Writing Mini Lessons for Secondary Classrooms
It may come as a surprise to you that my favorite mini lessons are nothing fancy. Rather, they are lessons I tend to come back to again and again throughout the year because students desperately need them. They are lessons that focus less on content and more on behavior and the structure of writing workshop. Writing and reading workshop started in the elementary classroom and many secondary teachers are realizing the benefits to this style of teaching reading and writing. If you are one of those secondary teachers then you should definitely teach these mini lessons!
Favorite Mini Lesson #1
How does writing workshop work in a secondary classroom?
A lot of secondary teachers feel they don't have time to implement workshop, but it is possible! Read about how I teach writing and reading workshop in 54 minutes here .
If you are going to teach using the writing workshop method then you should explicitly teach students the structure of writing workshop. Students need to know that writing workshop will always begin with the mini lesson. This is prime lesson time and only lasts ten minutes maximum. They need to know that the mini lesson is meant to be jam packed with important information they need to become effective, powerful writers. I don't take questions or call on students during this time. Questions/comments are for during work/conferencing time!
After the mini lesson comes work & conference time. The way in which students use the work time will vary from writer to writer depending on what stage of the writing process students are in. My next favorite mini lessons will discuss various choices students have during work time.
Favorite Mini Lesson #2
How do I get ideas to write about?
Often, the most challenging part of implementing writing workshop is when we expect students to write independently and, well, they don't. This is why my favorite mini lessons involve teaching students how to become independent writers. It is so important for us to provide our budding writers with a toolbox full of strategies for when they are stuck. Here are five things every student should have in their toolbox:
1. Writing charts around the room that stimulate ideas, check out many charts here
2. Mentor texts (and lessons about how to use them, see below)
3. A choice board with various options for the day
4. A productive writing partner
5. A writing notebook where risk taking, and sloppy stream of conscious writing is accepted and praised
In the video to the right, I discuss five strategies teachers can use to support students in developing their writing independence. It is essential writing workshop teachers spend a lot of time on this if they want to successfully teach students individualized lessons and skills through writing conferences (see my favorite mini lesson #4).
Favorite Mini Lesson #3
What do I do when I'm done?
What do you do when you hear the dreaded, "I'm done, now what?" a bit too early? Is your first reaction panic? Well, students are going to be "done" during your class and you have to be prepared for this. Teaching mini lessons about options for when you are done is so key to relieve the panic! Here are six things you should teach students to do when they are done:
1. Read a mentor text, any text that is within the genre you are writing will do
2. Read your own writing, in a whisper voice and make changes as you do so
3. Read a classmate's writing, give them feedback in the form of a note
4. Make a list of ideas you could write about
5. Start a new piece of writing
6. Realize that writing is never really ever truly done...
Favorite Mini Lesson #4
How do I have a writing conference?
There are two types of conferences you want to teach your students about: conferences with peers and conferences with the teacher. Writing conferences are the backbone of writing workshop because students can support each other and the teacher can differentiate and individualize instruction through conferences. But, in order for conferences to run successfully you definitely need to do the following:
1. Teach mini lessons modeling how conferences should go
2. Post charts with sentences stems students can use during peer and teacher conferences
3. Make sure students can work independently and know what to do if they aren't sure what to write or are done writing (see favorite mini lessons #2 & #3)
4. Use simple tracking systems to hold everyone accountable
Read more about successfully implementing conferences here .
Favorite Mini Lesson #5
How do I use mentor texts to improve my writing?
First of all before you can teach how to use mentor texts you should teach what a mentor text is (any text that serves as an example for the type of writing your students are involved in writing). You also need to locate lots and lots of mentor texts for your students (here's a resource page that can help). Once you've done these two things, you are ready to start modeling during your mini lesson. Here's the process I go through in front of my students:
1. I read the mentor text aloud to my students once all the way through for the enjoyment and experience of it, no analyzing.
2. A few days and even weeks later I refer back to part of the text. If we are learning about hooks then we analyze the hook, if we are learning about citing evidence then we look at that, if we are looking at how to write effective conclusions then we analyze that.
3. I model using sentences within the mentor text as sentence stems for my own writing and topic. I explain to students that this isn't copying, this is just gaining inspiration and getting support from mentors! For example a mentor text might use this sentence as a hook in an argumentative essay: All humans have desires and sometimes those desires are impossible to reach. This is a great hook because it gets readers connecting to the essay right away. So, I can use this as a jumping off point for my own argumentative essay by using the stem, "All humans have..." and apply it to my own argumentative writing topic. This can be so incredibly helpful to students who really have a hard time getting started.
4. I pull out mentor text during conferences and analyze what the pros are doing with students sitting side by side.
These five mini lessons are my favorite lessons because they aren't just about skills but also about behavior. Our budding writers need explicit instruction in how to build writing stamina and independence, how to go about getting feedback through conferences and gaining inspiration from mentor texts. I hope these lessons inspire your writing classroom and become your favorites too!
About the Author
Amanda Werner is a full time middle school English teacher in the Bay Area. She has been teaching for thirteen years and still feels like a novice. Every year is a unique and exciting challenge to inspire a new group of students in becoming avid readers and writers. Amanda reads educational literature voraciously and writes about the teaching of writing on her website amandawritenow.com . Amanda received her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Humanities at Western Washington University. In her free time, Amanda loves being outdoors with her husband and daughter.
Systematic Teaching for First and Second Grade
3 Steps to Planning Your Writers Workshop Mini Lessons
July 1, 2022 | Leave a Comment
Want to plan your writers workshop mini lessons in 3 easy steps? Although it can seem like there is too much to teach in writing to fit it all into a short mini lesson, today I am going to show you it is possible.
What are Writers Workshop Mini Lessons?
It’s all in the name!
Writers workshop mini lessons are short, bite-sized teaching lessons delivered on a focused skill. Because the lessons are mini they should only last from 5 to 10 minutes.
For most of us our mini lessons tend to be not so mini. If you’re like me, you start talking about something else during the lesson and your mini lesson is suddenly a full-size lesson with little time for anything else.
Just like most things, making sure your mini lesson stays short and sweet will take time and practice. Have patience and you’ll get there in no time!
Goals of the WRITING Mini Lessons
Similar to your math or reading lessons, the writing workshop mini lessons should have specific goals. These goals are determined by what the majority of your class needs.
My writing goals product is a great way to determine different goals most students need to master. Looking through these can help you decide on a focus lesson.
Here are some goals to consider to be the focus of your mini lessons:
Focus on the writing craft
Specifics about the genre
Examples of Writers Workshop Mini Lessons
Once you decide on a goal for your writers workshop mini lesson you can then expand on that goal to figure out the steps needed to accomplish the goal. This becomes your guideline for your next several mini lessons.
If you are focusing on the writing craft, here are some examples of mini lessons you could use in your writing block.
how an author chooses an introduction
mentor text examples of different introductions
choosing the right introduction
When providing lessons specific to a genre, think about what is specific to that genre. For instance, if I was teaching opinion writing these might be some example mini lessons:
defining facts and opinions
using specific details
stating an opinion
Sometimes my writing lessons are more about how to work independently so I can have a smooth running writers workshop. These lessons are just as important as teaching how to write. A few example mini lessons might be:
working with a partner
how to help my partner
being a good listener to my partner
Step 1 - Choose a focus for the WRITING mini lesson
The first step to planning your writers workshop mini lessons is to choose your focus. I recommend looking at your students' writing. What do they need? Then decide what they need to know about the genre they are learning.
Make a list and exam it. Which skills should go first? What would make sense to learn first? For example if you want your students to learn how to write a good introduction, what is the first step needed? I usually give a mini lesson on what is an introduction before I start on how to write one.
Then break apart the components of an introduction and teach only one component at a time.
Step 2 - Gather your materials
Once you have your roadmap on what to teach it’s time to decide what you need to help teach it. Will you be teaching using slides? A document camera? Maybe both?
When you gather and prepare all necessary materials before you start the mini lesson, you are guaranteed to start and end the lesson in the time you have planned.
Since I am terrible at drawing, I prefer to create my anchor charts on the computer. I can print out titles and have a basic anchor chart before I start the lesson. During the lesson, I assemble the rest of the pieces with the class.
This helps save time and if I laminate the template I can use it again each year.
If you plan to use a mentor text during your mini lesson, make sure you have it readily available. I can’t tell you how many times I have searched for a specific book and left students waiting during a lesson in the past! It’s much easier to pull all your mentor texts in advance and keep them in a basket ready to go.
Notebook or Paper
I often model how to complete the student independent work using loose leaf paper and their idea composition notebooks. I use my document camera to project these onto my Smartboard so all students can see my work clearly.
If you use photocopied papers for student work, make sure you have all needed copies early. I like to plan one subject for each planning period and then take all my master copies to the photocopier on Fridays. Then I can batch all my copies at once and save time during my planning period.
Often I like to use student groups, or student partners, during my writing lessons. This is great for a turn and talk portion of the lesson. By knowing exactly who students need to converse with, you save time during the lesson. Keep partners fresh by assigning new partners every month.
Step 3 - End with a clear direction
At the end of your mini lesson, you’ll want to finish by giving students a clear direction. This is their assignment for writing time. The clearer you are about what you expect during this time, the more focused your students will be during their independent practice.
Make your directions very clear. Just like your mini lesson focus, you will want to make sure you have one action item for students.
Give them too many things to work on and they are bound to be unsuccessful and need to ask you multiple questions when they are confused.
All writing students will have multiple things they need to work on. The key to successful writing is to work on just one of these at a time.
You can be successful!
Having a successful mini lesson takes a bit of planning and practice but in the end it’s worth it! You’re students will shine when you are more focused.
All it takes is to follow the 3 steps I’ve talked about today: choose your focus, gather your materials, and end with a clear direction.
Interested in joining my pilot program, Writing Unpacked, where you can have me as your step-by-step writing coach?
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What Are Writing Minilessons?
What are writing minilessons?
Writing minilessons are brief, focused, explicit lessons that help children understand and apply the characteristics of effective writing and nurture their ability to write with purpose, imagination, and voice. Each minilesson engages children in inquiry that leads to the discovery of a general principle from The Literacy Continuum .
As an instructional context, writing minilessons:
Focus learning on a single idea so children can apply the learning and build on it daily
Foster community through the development of shared language
Use an inquiry approach to support active, constructive learning
Make connections using mentor texts from interactive read-aloud and shared reading
Create relevance by linking to previous learning experiences
Expand students’ writing competencies and link them to reading
Generate anchor charts for student reference
Nurture student independence with opportunities to extend learning
What do The Writing Minilessons Books look like?
You will find two kinds of lessons in the PreK–1 Writing Minilessons Books:*
Interactive Writing Lessons: Share the pen with students to collaboratively compose a piece of writing together as a class.
Writing Minilessons: Use inquiry to focus on a single writing concept to build students literacy power.
The Writing Minilessons Books are organized into various sections:
1. Interactive Writing Lessons (PreK–1) Reinforce the relationship between letters and sounds and how print works. Interactive writing lessons allow children to participate in the writing process with a high level of support. Children learn to see themselves as writers because they collaborate with their peers and teacher to craft meaningful writing.
2. Building Community (PreK) Build a strong community of learners who play and learn together respectfully and responsibly with lessons that focus on routines for children to think, talk, play, draw, read, and write together.
3. Management (K–1) Help children become a strong community of diverse learners who play and learn together respectfully. Most minilessons at the beginning of the school year will focus on organizing the classroom and building a classroom community.
4. Telling Stories (PreK–1) Support the oral language component of writing that is fundamental for children as they learn to draw and write their ideas on paper with lessons that focus on teaching children how to tell stories.
5. Making Books (PreK–1) Support children by helping them to see that they can make books just like the authors of the books they read.
6. Drawing (PreK–1) Teach children to make representational drawings and to consider how to use color that resembles real life.
7. Exploring Early Writing (PreK–1) Help children develop early concepts of print and explore the writing process.
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