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Reading Workshop: How to Keep Your Mini Lesson Focused

reading workshop mini lessons

A reading workshop model consists of whole group instruction, direct instruction, and independent reading.  This includes mini-lessons, independent reading time where students practice reading strategies, small group guided reading instruction, reading conferences, and a closing/share time. 

Using a workshop model means that your reading schedule is student-centered.  A workshop model helps students develop skills as readers with guidance from you, as the teacher, and the mini-lesson plays a major role in that guidance.

What is a mini lesson?

A mini-lesson is a whole group lesson that focuses on a specific skill. It should be about 5-10 minutes…hence the name “mini.” The skill that you teach in your mini-lesson will be a focus during your small reading groups and students' independent reading time.

The mini-lesson gives you the opportunity to focus on a specific skill by showing examples and sharing strategies that your readers will be able to apply as they read independently.

Types of reading mini lessons

  1. Routines and procedures of reading workshop.
  2. Literary analysis: teaching the elements of different reading genres.
  3. Reading strategies and skills: covering the reading standard skills.
  4. Writing about reading: using your reader's notebook to reflect on your reading.

As you are planning your mini-lessons, considering the type of mini-lesson you will teach will help as you are choosing mentor text, preparing anchor charts, and deciding on the focus skills you will target.

What do we do during a mini lesson?

  • Students gather at a whole group meeting area.
  • The teacher shares and explains the focus skill for the day, what are they going to learn from this lesson?
  • Then model the skill by reading a mentor text. An interactive read-aloud will allow you to model how you think through the strategy as you read. You can have students turn and talk through your thoughtful prompting as well.
  • Engage your students in the skill by creating an anchor chart together. You may want students to use pre-made pages to copy the anchor chart in their reader's notebooks or they can take notes using the anchor chart you've made together. They will use these as a reference to look back at throughout the year.
  • Discuss the strategy that students will practice as they head out on their own to read independently.
reading

From mini lesson to major lesson

Sometimes we have mini-lessons that turn into major lessons. The 5-10 minute mini-lesson can quickly turn into 25-30 minutes…it happens so easily!

You may feel like you are teaching the skill as best you can and that stopping would leave students confused, but a problem arises when your mini-lesson runs long. You are cutting into student independent reading time.

Students will not be able to use the strategies taught if they don't have the time to apply them. Independent reading time is such an important part of reading workshop, so don't cut it short!

reading quote

To make sure that your mini-lesson stays mini, jam pack the lesson with content that is important and meaningful to what your students are working on. And remember, you will be meeting with students throughout the week in small reading groups, so you can re-target the skill.

How can you avoid going over time?

Mentor Text

Reading a mentor text during a mini-lesson is a great way to introduce a skill but reading a whole book aloud to your class AND THEN discussing the focus skill can sometimes take more than the 5-10 minutes allotted. Here are a few ways to use mentor text but still keep your lesson mini…

  • Use a book that you have already read with your class. Give a quick refresher or summary of the book and discuss the skill you are focusing on.
  • Plan ahead and use the mentor text as a read-aloud during morning meetings or use the same book for reading and writing workshop.
  • Read a snippet of the book that displays the focus skill. You do not need to read the whole book to hone in on a skill.
  • Split the book into two mini-lessons and read part of the book on day 1 and part of the book on day 2.
  • Split the mini-lesson into two days and read the book one day and create an anchor chart based on the skill the next day.
reading mentor text

Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are a great way to focus on a specific skill in a mini-lesson. Creating an anchor chart during a mini-lesson is a great way for students to discuss the skill and see examples right in front of them. Your students can be a part of the anchor chart process, helping with examples and giving ideas or you can create an anchor chart as a model.

You can print pieces of anchor charts to use and glue them on your anchor chart paper before your lesson to save time. With the anchor chart prepped ahead of time, you can save time by working with your students to fill in the information.

The content that you pack into your anchor chart is what matters! And when you are modeling and working with students to share specific strategies that will improve their reading, they are sure to walk away from your mini-lesson full of strategies to use while reading.

reading workshop anchor chart

Stay focused!

Keep the mini-lesson quick and focused on the skill. It's easy to get wrapped up in the book or discussions you are having, but keep it short and sweet!

Give an action item

Give an action item so that when your students leave the whole group instruction, they know how they will apply this skill to their own reading.

reading workshop

Set a timer

Set a timer for 10 minutes, the max time you should be spending on your mini-lesson. There's no overtime when the timer buzzes…you can be sure your students won't let that happen, lol!

I hope you found some great ideas for your future mini-lessons!

Your students should leave your whole group mini-lesson excited about reading their own books! The right mentor text can get them thinking. An anchor chart serves as a reference. And a short discussion can give them something to walk away with.

Find everything you need for reading workshop mini-lessons:

reader's workshop yearlong unit

Happy Reading!

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