Let’s imagine that you’re stranded at sea in a tiny rowboat. The weight of all the writing instruction strategies you’ve got up your sleeve are weighing the boat down, so you’ve got to throw them all overboard except for ONE.
Which one will you keep?
I’m saving mini-lessons. And I’ll never look back.
Why? Mini-lessons, aka focus lessons, are the most effective way of delivering explicit writing instruction for many reasons.
Keep reading to find out the following:
- What are the characteristics of a good mini-lesson?
- What are the advantages of using a mini-lesson format?
- How can they be used in a middle school ELA classes? (I use them despite the fact that our class periods are only 42 minutes long!)
I’m even including a link to one of my most helpful FREE mini-lessons!
What are the characteristics of an effective mini-lesson?
- It is short. Mini-lessons are intentionally kept brief, usually 10-20 minutes, so that students can spend a majority of the period writing and implementing the skill from the lesson.
- It is focused. The mini-lesson pinpoints one skill that is directly related to the writing genre students are currently working on.
- It is practical. Students can immediately improve their writing by incorporating their newfound knowledge.
What are the advantages of using a mini-lesson format?
- Differentiation: It is easy to pull small groups aside for individualized mini-lessons depending upon need.
- Application: Kids see immediate improvement in their own writing because the lessons are targeted to skills they can directly apply to craft their writing. For example, they’re not busy completing worksheets about punctuation rules that they may or may not need to know someday.
- Authenticity: Because students use the skills right away, they see the practical value of the task. Revision lessons relate to the genre and grammar isn’t taught in isolation.
- Fosters Independence: Students learn to take responsibility for their own learning instead of waiting for the teacher to take that red pen to their paper. They self-evaluate and figure out the most effective way to approach and improve their own writing. (I also LOVE when kids CHOOSE to join in on a small group mini-lesson because they feel they need to learn the skill! SCORE!)
- Teachers Like It: Short lessons make planning easier, leading to higher quality, targeted lessons. Additionally, we get to spend more time working directly with kids!
- KIDS LOVE IT! They have more time to write and share their work. They also like the sense of control and immediate gratification that comes with the format.
How can we use mini-lessons in middle school ELA classes?
- writing a magnetic starter
- point of view
- creating characters
- writing dialogue
- concrete language
- sensory details