Teaching Mini Lessons
by Lisa Frase
A mini-lesson focuses on a specific teaching point and lasts five to twenty minutes. You can teach a mini-lesson with a whole group, small group, or with individual students. Mini-lessons are ideal for quick lessons leading to active engagement.
Steps for Completing a Mini-Lesson
Before you plan your mini-lesson, you need to determine your teaching point. A teaching point is a specific objective. What will the learner do? A teaching point might look like this: The writer will select a topic for writing a nonfiction magazine article. Once you have a teaching point you can begin to plan your lesson.
Step One: Model
The first step in teaching a mini-lesson is to model what you want your students to do. If your teaching point is to get your students to select a writing topic, then you must demonstrate selecting a topic.
You could show the students a list of ideas for writing magazine articles that you brainstormed the night before. Perhaps you have ten ideas on the list. Prior to your lesson, write your list on chart paper or place it on a projection device. Think out loud about your thinking as you consider your topics.
Which topic do you know the most about? Which topic is the most interesting? Which topic could you spend time writing without getting bored? Which topic has enough meat to actually fill up article space? These are the kinds of questions you would ask yourself (out loud) for this particular teaching point.
Your goal is to show your students how you eliminate topics and select the best topic for writing. You should complete this step in less than five minutes.
Step Two: Active Engagement
The next step in teaching a mini-lesson is to actively engage your students. Active engagement can range from turning to a partner and talking to a hands-on experience. The key word is “active”.
Students are engaged in practice (trial and error) while the teacher monitors and assists their students. In the case of our teaching point on writing, students could work in partners to help each other talk through their writing ideas in order to choose the best idea.
At the end of the session students should be ready to write. This step might take five to ten minutes.
Step Three: Sharing the Learning Experience
Before you leave the mini-lesson behind and release students to responsibility, bring your class back together (or meet with your small group or individuals) to share the learning experience.
In the case of selecting topics, students could share their writing topics with the rest of the class and tell how they decided on their topic. In this case, it’s not the topic they chose, but the process they engaged in while choosing the topic. Don’t spend more than five minutes for step three. You’ve got to get your students to work now! It’s time to write (or read).
There will be times when you will want to return to the mini-lesson after students complete their assigned task. Take a moment to allow students to share the learning and thinking that occurred during independent work.
Mini-lessons are a great tool for keeping your students engaged and moving along. Children are wired from television, video games, and the Internet to the point that they lose interest quickly.