A Sample Mini-Lesson for Teaching Writing Conventions
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
- Sample Lesson Transcript
- Following Up the Lesson
Your students are already noticing writing conventions — such as capitalization, punctuation, and the like — in the trade books they read, and using some conventions accurately in their writing. So the first thing you'll do in this mini-lesson is help children to see what they already know about conventions.
Start with a small group of five children who have a reasonably strong repertoire of conventions. I do this lesson with small groups because the concepts are sophisticated enough that I want to make sure everyone has acquired a fundamental understanding of them. (With this mini-lesson as with others, follow-up is key to making concepts stick.)
How I guide the lesson:
Sample Lesson Transcript
Don: This morning we are going to talk about conventions. I have a page of my writing here to show you what I mean. I'd like you take out a piece of your own writing. You are already using conventions, so we'll take a look at what some of these are. Some are obvious, others are more complex.
All right, everything I do when I write is an act of convention. That is, things are done in a certain way, so the reader and I can understand what I'm trying to say. (I'm holding my page up so children can see it.) One of the simplest conventions is how my letters and words go from left to right across the page. What are some other conventions that we use almost every time we write?
Student: How about I put spaces between my words?
Don: Sure, let's have another.
Student: Well, the words should really be spelled just one way. I don't always do that, though.
Don: Right. Sometimes I know a word isn't spelled right and it really bothers me. Now here's another: See this capital at the beginning of this sentence? That shows where the sentence starts. Okay, I see lots of hands now.
Student: Then you put a period at the end. I've got one here but I don't know if it's right or not.
Don: Why do we use conventions like this?
Student: If you don't separate things, it would all run together.
Don: That's right. The period is a stop mark. It means, this is the end of this idea. Let's have a few more ideas, now that you seem to have the hang of it.
Student: Got someone talking and you use quotation marks.
Don: I think you have the idea. I want you to make a chart listing any conventions you think you've used in your piece of writing. If there are some you'd like to use and haven't, write them on the chart. When you finish, put the sheets in the "Completed Work" basket.
All this year, we'll keep adding to your chart of conventions so that you and your readers can better understand what you are writing.
Following Up the Lesson
In the weeks that follow this mini-lesson, when children hand in writing to me, they point out where they think they have first used a particular convention or have, in fact, used it accurately. When I review the children's papers, I'll be looking for several things:
- Their understanding of the concept of conventions; the range of conventions they are using;
- Conventions they are using but neglected to list, and; the accuracy of their use of conventions.