Focused Mini Lessons

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What Is It?

A mini lesson is a short lesson with a narrow focus that provides instruction in a skill or concept that students will then relate to a larger lesson that will follow. A mini lesson typically precedes reading workshop or writing workshop, but it can serve as an introduction to a social studies, science, or math lesson. Mini lessons can be used to teach particular skills, extend previous learning, create interest in a topic and generate questions, or introduce strategies.

Why Is It Important?

As Lucy Calkins explains in The Art of Teaching Writing, the mini lesson allows a teacher to convey a tip or strategy to students that they will use often (Calkins 1986). Sharing tips and strategies in this way allows students to gain valuable, relevant skills on a regular basis without spending too much time on drill and worksheets that might otherwise be used to teach the same skills. The lessons can focus on any number of topics, including reading, writing, problem-solving strategies and skills, or even classroom procedures. Using authentic student work as a springboard, teacher-created mini lessons can serve the needs of students by focusing on a single topic across multiple instructional levels.

When Should It Be Taught?

The mini lesson serves as a lead-in to a larger lesson in just about any subject area and can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 15 minutes.

What Does It Look Like?

The mini lesson may be taught to a whole class, a selected small group, or individual students. The mini lesson should be short and focused on one strategy, skill, or concept. Teachers introduce the topic; demonstrate the strategy, skill, or concept; guide student practice; discuss the topic; volunteer more examples; and talk about what was taught. At the end of the mini lesson, teachers should give directions for the next activity, the literacy centers, or independent assignments.

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