Hi all and welcome back! Thank you so much for stopping by and continuing to check in with my Launching the Writing Workshop Do’s and Don’ts series of posts! So far, I’ve shared some tips and tricks to use with setting up your writing center, as well as the background and philosophy of the writing workshop. If you’re just tuning in, make sure to scroll back through my older posts to check them out.
Throughout the rest of the series, my hope is that you will learn more about ways to launch writing workshop, routines to use throughout the year to make your workshop more effective, and some other do’s and don’ts to carry with you! This is just a tentative list, I’ve already steered off of it in fact and I would love to continue to answer more questions that you have! I promise to try my best to share my own experiences and things that I have learned with all of you!
Today I’m really excited to share with you an essential part of writing workshop. I want to delve a little deeper into the brains of the w.w.; the mini-lesson. If the writing center is the heart of workshop, then the mini-lesson is definitely the brain. The mini-lesson is an incredibly important part of your workshop and one that the rest can not function without.
Below I have included a little image that I created to show the parts of what your writing workshop should be. It’s clear that the BULK of your workshop is NOT the mini-lesson. What???!!! I know, but it’s true. Something that has been difficult to learn about workshop teaching is the importance of TALKING LESS and LISTENING MORE! As important and essential as your mini-lessons are, they are not the largest part of your workshop time.
The bulk of your writing workshop SHOULD be independent writing time for you students. How else are they going to practice what you preach?! I’ll get into what YOU should be during while they’re writing in another post. The mini-lesson although short is essential. Each mini-lesson has 5 very specific parts included in it.
Components of a mini-lesson include:
-Teaching Point (objective)
-Active Engagement (get students involved)
There are different kinds of mini-lessons as well:
Teacher demonstration/model: Where a teacher is sharing a new skill and modeling from their own writing or an example from a mentor text.
The inquiry lesson: This kind of mini-lesson has the teacher presenting the students with materials to investigate author’s craft and guiding them towards the lesson objective.
Shared writing/interactive writing: Shared writing is where the teacher holds onto the pen and demonstrates the process of writing in front of the students. Interactive writing is where the students are allowed to use the pen and interactively create the texts.
Even though your mini-lesson is indeed mini, these 5 parts work together in a way to best engage and support your writers. So, let’s get into those handy Do’s and Don’ts!
- Call your students to the meeting area in an organized way. Use a hand signal, a saying, or a non-verbal cue by tables to have your students meet you on the carpet. Practice this routine!(more in another post)
- Mini-lessons should be just that: MINI! Set a timer or an alarm for yourself before beginning. The mini-lesson should be between 8-10 minutes. Once that alarm goes off, end it!
- Start your mini-lesson with a connection. Whether that be a reminder of what you taught the previous day, something your students would have done last year, or a personal short story of something you experienced. Let your connection be a 2 minute start to your mini-lesson.
- Clearly state your objective THROUGHOUT the mini-lesson. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If your goal for the mini-lesson is for the students to recognize that all stories have a beginning, middle, or end, say it multiple times.
- Model, model, model. Practice what you preach. If you’re teaching students to add an introduction, model it on your own writing or show it in a mentor text.
- Have your students actively engaged. Ask them to bring their writing folders, an example of their own work, or a white board to the carpet with you. During your mini-lesson ask them to practice the skill after you model it and share it with their partner.
- Have a call to arms! End your mini-lesson with a link to their own writing before sending them to their writing spots, “Okay writers, if you’re going to try to add a question in your introduction during writing today give me a thumbs up.” “Great! Now remember today and every day, writers can use questions in their introductions to get their reader’s attention! Off you go!”
- Create your OWN mini-lessons! As long as you have the 5 parts of a mini-lesson you can create your own to fit the needs of your learners!
- Just expect your students to remember how to gather for a mini-lesson. Practice it throughout the entire year!
- Make your mini-lesson into a maxi lesson. After that 10 minute mark you will lose the attention of your students and cut down on their independent writing time. Big NO NO!
- Skip the connection. It’s important to get the attention of your students by connecting to them personally or activating prior knowledge.
- Say the objective once. You want your writers to understand what their goal is during workshop time and remember the strategies that you’re teaching them.
- Read a mentor text example during your mini-lesson. Try not to at least as difficult as that may sound. Share the picture book or informational text during shared reading or read aloud to not take up too much time in your mini-lesson. Then, during your mini-lesson re-read a specific part that helps highlight your mini-lesson objective.
- End your mini-lessons without restating the teaching point.
- Just use the mini-lessons provided in your teacher manuals. You know BEST what your students need to practice.
- Expect students to only work on that particular objective during writing time. THIS IS TOUGH! The writing workshop is a process so some students may be at different points in their writing. As long as your students are using skills taught in mini-lessons throughout the unit, they’re on the right track.
Wow, that was a lot longer of a post than I expected. I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes I heard abut the writing workshop and that was, “You are what your workshop needs.”
I can’t remember the specific staff developer at the Reading and Writing Project that shared this nugget but I just LOVE it.
I’m sure you have questions and I would LOVE to answer them. Please feel free to leave them in the comments below or email me. Please keep in mind, I’m no expert but I will try my absolute best to help you!
Make sure to stayed tuned for my next two posts, Do’s and Don’ts of Essential Routines and Do’s and Don’ts of Activities to Launch the Workshop (including mentor text suggestions).
I hope you are all enjoying your last few weeks of summer!
As always, thank you SO much for stopping by!