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Writing Workshop Mini-Lessons: How to Keep the Mini-Lesson Mini

writing workshop mini lessons

Are you ready to try using mini-lessons in your writing workshop but you're not sure how you can ever fit all the things into such a short time? Don't worry, you CAN fit it all in. So, let's talk about mini-lessons!

You can focus on a specific skill in a short time by considering what type of mini-lesson you will teach, by using mentor text to support your focus skill, and trusting that your workshop model will allow for independent time to put that skill to work!

So let's do this!

writing workshop writing process

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 long…hence the name “mini.”

The skill that you teach in your mini-lesson should be something you want students to practice in their own writing. They will use what they learned in the mini-lesson to apply to their own writing.

The mini-lesson gives you the opportunity to show examples and share strategies that will motivate your students and give ideas for their writing.

Mini-lessons allow us to model strategies in a whole group setting through mentor text, anchor charts, and examples. By breaking down a skill in this “mini” time together, you are simplifying the complex parts of writing and allowing students to break down their own writing process as they leave the whole group and enter their independent writing time.

Types of mini-lessons

There are four types of mini-lessons:

  1. Routines and procedures of writing workshop:.
  2. Strategies for writing (thinking of ideas, writing process).
  3. Skills (paragraph writing, using quotation marks, run-on sentences, etc.).
  4. Writer’s Craft (writing a strong lead, wrap up conclusions).

When planning your mini-lesson, considering the type of mini-lesson you want to focus on will help guide your planning.

writing workshop planning page

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, but a problem arises when your mini-lesson runs long; you are cutting into student independent writing time.

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

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 then don't be afraid to let them go to do their own writing!

You can use writing conferences to re-target the mini-lesson skill for writers that you may have noticed were struggling.

writing workshop strategies

What do I do in a writing workshop mini-lesson?

So, now we know all about mini-lessons and planning, but what do we actually DO in the writing mini-lesson?

Use a 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 you have allotted for the mini-lesson, and we know we don't want to cut into the independent reading time!

Here's a few ways to use mentor text but still keeping 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.
  • 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.
writing workshop mentor text mini lessons

Create an anchor chart

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.

When you include your students in the process of creating the anchor chart by sharing examples and ideas, they are more likely to remember and refer back to the anchor chart as a reference.

writing workshop anchor charts
Anchor chart toppers are a great way to prep charts while still creating them during the mini lesson.

I love cute, Instagram-worthy anchor charts as much as the next teacher…but the anchor chart is meant to be a tool used to support instruction and is MORE than just a poster in the classroom.

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

Keep the lesson 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 writing. They will walk away from your mini-lesson ready to write!!

writing workshop mini lessons

Let's do this!

Okay, let's do this!

Here is a peek at your super focused, short but sweet, jam packed with all the things, engaging content mini-lesson:

  • Gather as a whole group to your special spot where all the whole group magic happens. Get right to business to keep it mini…no small talk!
  • Let them know the skill we will be focusing on today, give a quick statement/info about that skill.
  • Read aloud a short book or short snippet from a book (lots of theatrics here to keep them engaged and to make it memorable).
  • Point out specific parts in the book that model the focus skill.
  • Create an anchor chart packed with content about the focus skill.
  • Discuss how they can apply this skill to their own writing and give an action item to work on during independent writing.

All that in less than 10 minutes! PHEW! I wasn't joking…it is jam packed with content in a short time!

student in writing workshop

Your students should leave your whole group mini-lesson excited about the ideas swirling in their head! The right mentor text can get their wheels turning, an anchor chart serves as a reference, and a short discussion can give them some great ideas. When you hear students buzzing as they are getting back to their writing, talking about what they will write next, you know you've had a successful mini-lesson.

You can grab a free planning page and a list of all of my favorite mentor text to use in writing workshop mini-lessons.

free set of mentor text for all writing genres

Everything you for launching writing workshop mini-lessons and more:

launching writing workshop

You can find done for you mini-lessons and more for the entire year with writing workshop units here:

writing workshop bundle

Happy writing!

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