Understanding Minilessons
Literacy Collaborative, 2010
• Minilessons are a teaching tool that can help
teachers organize their thinking and teaching
as well as support students as learners
through scaffolding and focused lessons.
• To think about how the structure of minilessons
can support learning in each of the workshops
• To understand the constructive nature of
• To consider links between the structure of
minilessons and the idea of gradual release of
Common Elements to all Workshops
• Book talk, author talk, poet talk: Help to inform students and
engage them in the process of reading and writing.
• Minilesson and share: help to frame the workshop, allow for
direct teaching, modeling, and reinforcement of the concept.
• Independent work time: provides opportunities for students to
apply new learning and extend current understandings while
engaging in the process of reading, writing, or word study. The
teacher confers with individuals during this time.
• Small group instruction: guided reading or guided writing time
within the workshops provides the setting for more focused work
with students having similar needs.
Elements of a Minilesson:
Minilesson statement
Modeling the principle
Applying the principle
Sharing and extending the learning
Write a clear minilesson statement that:
• Focuses on one element of:
– Procedure
– Convention
– Craft
– Literary analysis
– Phonics or word study
• Uses clear and simple language
• Helps break down the reading or writing
process into chunks that are accessible
to students.
• “Readers stop to picture what is happening while reading a
story in order to think more about the characters, setting, or
• “Writers use strong verbs in order to paint pictures in the
reader’s mind.”
• “When a verb ends in silent ‘e,’ we drop the ‘e’ before adding
the ending, ‘ing.’
• “Poets sometimes write their poems in the shape of the topic
in order to make them more visually interesting and
• Choose a section of text or a piece of writing that can
serve as a model of the minilesson principle
– A section of shared read aloud text
– An example from the teacher’s or a student’s writer’s
notebook or writing project.
– An example from a student’s reader’s notebook
– Words that illustrate the word study principle
– A poem that Illustrates the minilesson principle.
– A demonstration of an action
Modeling, contd.
• Model the procedure using manipulatives, if
• Keep in mind various learning styles as you choose
your models
• Think about different levels of scaffolding that might
be necessary for the students in your class, based on
your assessments.
• If there is confusion, reconsider the type of model
and the approach you might use the next day.
• Have another example ready for the students
to work with, or
• Ask the students to generate more examples
• Reinforce the principle and clarify what
students are to do during independent work
• Assess understanding before students leave
the circle
Apply the principle:
• Think further about the principle and apply it during
workshop time
In the writer’s notebook
In a current writing draft
In a reader’s notebook entry
While reading independently
During the word study application time
While reading or writing poetry
During small group work (guided reading or guided writing)
Share and Extend Learning:
• Share what students noticed or thought about while reading or
• Talk more about the application of the principle
• Elicit further examples of the principle from the students’ work
• Debrief the process the students engaged in
• Look for evidence of student understanding
• Scaffold students who may still be unsure
• Reiterate the principle and its application
• Assess the effectiveness of the lesson
• Think about future lessons
• Write a few thoughts about your comfort level with
the concept of minilessons, and where you think
your greatest challenge will lie when it comes to
planning minilessons for your students.