Mini-lessons for Writing
Proposed writing workshop schedule:
Mini-lesson: 15-20 minutes
Student work period: 25-35 minutes
Sharing: 5-10 minutes
Each mini-lesson is composed of four parts
(Connection, teach, active engagement, link):
- Connection: The teacher puts today’s work into the context of children’s ongoing work as writers and explicitly names what they’ll be learning today.
|Example: “Writers, I’ve been very impressed as I’ve read over your informational articles lately. You’ve been doing a great job of writing creative leads to capture your reader’s interest. Today I’m going to teach you how informational authors also use headings to make their writing more organized and interesting to their readers.”
- Teach: The teacher explicitly teaches students ONE concept that will make their writing better. It is important not to teach too much here, and to be very explicit in the instruction. The teacher might use her own writing, an excerpt from children’s literature, or a student’s writing to teach the target concept.
|Example: “Let me show you what I mean. Look at my writing about sea turtles from yesterday [show students a sample writing that is not divided into sections with headings]. I have a lot of good information here about sea turtles. But if someone were reading my article, they might have a hard time finding the information they want because it’s not divided into sections. If you look at this book about sea turtles [show students a book or magazine article that IS organized into sections with headings] you can see that the writer has decided to group all the information about sea turtles’ food into one paragraph, and to title it “What do sea turtles eat?”. Another section is about sea turtle babies, and it also has its own heading. I’m thinking I need to do this to my writing also, to make it easier for my readers to find the information they want.Watch as I underline all the information in my article that has to do with where sea turtles live using a red marker. Now I will be able to rewrite this information in my next draft with a heading, such as “Where do sea turtles live?”.
- Active Engagement: This section of the mini-lesson allows students the opportunity to briefly “try out” the strategy you just demonstrated within the safety of the group. All students should be actively engaged by turning and talking to a neighbor or by examining their own writing.
|Example: “Now I want you to try it. What other information could I group together in my article? Turn and talk to your writing partner about sentences that you feel would go together, and also think of a good heading title that summarizes that information. [Give students 2-5 minutes to talk. As students discuss, listen in on discussions to see if students understand the idea. Decide on one partner group who understand the idea of headings to share with the group]. Writers, let’s come back together. I heard some good discussion going on! Jose and Walter, would you please share with the group the information you think should go together and the heading that you feel would fit?” [Allow just this pair to share – there’s no need to let multiple students share, as this takes up time and can turn your mini-lesson into a “maxi-lesson”]
- Link: The teacher restates the teaching point and either tries to ensure that every students applies this new learning to their ongoing writing today (if applicable) or encourages children to add today’s teaching point to their repertoire of strategies.
|Example: “Writers, today we learned that informational authors often organize their writing by grouping similar information together and putting a small title, or heading, at the beginning of that section. Today, I want you to examine your article – even if you’re not finished yet – and work on grouping similar information together. You may use different colored markers like I did. If you still have questions about how authors use headings you may stay behind on the rug. Otherwise, off you go – happy writing!”
Types of Mini-Lessons:
- Rules for Writing Workshop
- How to set up your writer’s notebook
- How to locate materials
- How to have a conference with the teacher
- What to do if you think you’re done
- How to revise for meaning
- How to add details
- How to narrow your topic
- How to eliminate unnecessary information
- How to reread
- How to organize your paper
- How to create a good lead
- How to add figurative language
- How to “show, not tell”
- How to use the “rule of three”
- How to use strong verbs
- How to use closing punctuation
- How to correct spelling errors
- How to use commas in a series
- How to use pronouns correctly
- How to use quotation marks
Sample Writing Mini-Lessons