Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Writing Mini-Lessons (They are so much easier than you think!!)

The exhaustion, people!! Oh, the exhaustion! We've been back for TWO days, and seriously? I'm falling into bed at a most undignified hour! In fact, as I type this, I am noticing that it's already 9pm... way past my bedtime, folks, so I'ma gonna make this short!!

I've had several emails, blog comments, and questions in my TpT store about the mini-lessons that I teach during writing. If you have any of my writing units, then you know that many of them come with mini-lessons to teach during that unit, but not all of them. Several of you are wondering where I get all my other the mini-lessons.

Well, the answer is simple: from EVERYWHERE! See, several years ago, I gave up teaching vocabulary, grammar, mechanics/conventions, and even some parts of writer's craft in an isolated manner. I knew that the transfer when teaching this way was negligent and it took up a ginormous amount of my period. So instead, I opted to flood my kids with great writing and teach the lessons they needed to learn RIGHT FROM THE WRITING ITSELF. No more worksheets, or text books, or quizzes. Just lots of good writing that we observe, dissect, and imitate.

So, pretty much everyday, I share a great piece of writing with my students. (My favorite sources are the Chicken Soup books because so many of them are written by kids for kids. I will also use students' work from a previous year, with their permission, of course!) Then, after I read it aloud, I mark a few things that I really liked and want them to notice. Below, you can see a piece that I shared and the three things I wanted them to observe: the author's use of commas in a series, her word choice, and her closing.

We spent a few minutes talking about these things and practiced writing a few sentences that modeled how to use commas in a series. Then, I told the students to get drafting (we were in the middle of a narrative unit) and suggested that while they were writing to try to focus on their word choice, comma usage, and their closing.

As I walked around the room to conference with students, I noticed how kids are doing with these three things and provided some feedback. Then, at the end of class during "share time" and I asked students to share either: a.) a sentence that includes a series, b.) a sentence that really shows their care with word choice, or c.) their closing. BOOM! Mini-lesson success!!

Now, just because I shared this once doesn't mean they'll get it. And, some kids might not have an opportunity to practice that skill that day, so, as I share more mentors, I'll touch on these aspects again (and again and again!).

Throughout the course of a year, I will teach dozens of mini-lessons over and over. (Go ahead and just ask how many times I teach punctuating dialogue!! And they still struggle!!) That means kids will get lots of opportunity to observe the skill in action and to practice the skill themselves. Can you think of anything better?!? Authentic observation and practice?!? Awesome!

How do you design your mini-lessons? Any sure-fire strategies to share? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Teaching!!


  1. I love your ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi, Jenna. I'm not entirely sure where to messsage you, but we are faced with our state test requiring only one type of writing...Text-Dependent analysis. It's worth 25% of the entire test and even with two years of pretty intense practice, our students are not where we want them to be. Do you address this or have lessons that can help? Thanks!