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.