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Mini Lessons

Slicing every day in March!!

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start a unit on fantasy book clubs. I want them to get better at preparing for a book club meeting. They are not yet comfortable doing this and the sticky notes they are selecting don't lead to rich conversations. 

When Kathy Collins was at my school a few weeks ago, she modeled a lesson about how to select an interesting idea from the sticky note jots students do while they are reading. She showed students how to write a few sentences more about their initial idea so that they can generate rich conversations about their books.

When I've collected these sticky notes, I've noticed that the thinking kids are documenting is shallow and noncommittal. 

So, today I read a few pages of our current read aloud novel, Number the Stars, and asked kids to use a symbol (icon, emoji that made sense to them, or one from the list I shared with them) to jot down their thinking as I read the text aloud. Then, I asked students to select one of these thoughts and extend their thinking by writing a few more sentences. I scanned their responses and, overall, the quality of their thinking was better. 

Tomorrow we're going to try this again with a few more pages from the same chapter. Then, I'll ask my students to choose one sticky note from that chapter to keep writing on. I'm going to suggest the following sentence stems to help kids get started:

  • Maybe what's happening here is..
  • I think...
  • My thought about this is... 
  • If...then...

After that, I'm going to pair students so they can engage in partner conversations; this would serve well as practice for their next book club meeting on Thursday.


If you have any suggestions for helping students have more effective book club conversations, please a comment below. Thanks!




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