Alison (comment #36),
When I write my reading and writing workshop mini-lessons, I follow the "Architecture of an Effective Mini-Lesson" format. Effective mini-lessons tend to follow a similar structure. That is, while the content of the mini lesson changes from day to day, the architecture of mini lessons often remains constant.
Connection: My mini-lessons begin with a connection, in which you talk about how this lesson will fit into the work students have been doing and how it will fit into their lives as readers.
Teaching Point: Next, tell students exactly what you'll be teaching them. This is the teaching point.
Teaching: Now you teach students something you hope they'll use often as they read. You usually do this by demonstrating a strategy you use to read with greater accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Sometimes you might share a strategy used by a student in our class, retell a vignette, or re-enact something you've seen other readers do. Usually, this component is structured sequentially, like a how-to text.
Active Engagement: Now you give all students a quick opportunity to try what you've taught with your support, or to imagine themselves trying it before you send them off to continue reading. This active engagement phase often involves students practicing the strategy we've just demonstrated on a familiar text, and it often involves them talking with their reading partner.
Link: To bring closure to the mini lesson, try to link the mini lesson to what the class has learned on previous days, to that day's work-time and to students' lives as readers. You may recall the major topic the class has been studying. "You already learned ... and today you have one more strategy to add ... " Sometimes the subject of the mini-lesson will only be pertinent for some readers. "How many of you will do this today?" you might ask. Other times, you will want to be sure every reader incorporates the new strategy into his or her work that day. "I'd like everyone to try out this strategy today to see how it helps you as you read." In these ways, you make it likely that at least some students transfer the mini lesson to that day's independent work, and that it becomes part of all students' ongoing repertoire.
I learned this approach when I first started exploring reading workshop and still use each component when planning and writing my reading workshop and writing workshop mini-lessons.
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