Here's my advice for managing the whole process of teaching kids to use the tools of the writing trade: conventions such as punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and the like.

  1. Buy a three-hole loose-leaf notebook in which you can keep track of your mini-lessons with the entire class or with small groups.

  2. Make transparencies to teach skills on the overhead projector; three-hole punch them, and file them in your notebook. When you go to teach the lesson again, you can simply remove the transparencies from the notebook. You can also photocopy a transparency and post it on the bullet in board or hand it out as reference for yourself and the children.

  3. Keep your notebook accessible for children to use as a reference. Although I like children to keep their own records of skills in their writing folders, my notebook can be used as another source for refreshing their memories about lessons they've had.

  4. Post the mini-lesson you will conduct a week in advance. Expect children to experiment with these in advance of the lesson.

  5. Encourage children to have a sheet of paper on hand during the mini-lessons, so they can doodle or practice using conventional tools.

  6. Keep the tone of each mini-lesson as one of discovery, rather than of preoccupation with accurate use of the convention.

  7. Let children teach mini-lessons with you. Bring them in on the planning and the design.

  8. Let children share the conventions they are using. Ask questions like: Did anyone use a new form of punctuation? Did anyone use quotation marks today? If you ask children to keep track of the conventions they use, they'll have much to share.

  9. Use trade books to investigate how authors use conventions.

  10. Post the names of children who effectively use certain conventions and can serve as helpers to other students.