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Writing
Minilessons
For
Middle School
By: Kasey Kiehl
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Template
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Planning
Rationales for Writing Minilessons
• By limiting a daily minilesson to 10-15 minutes during the Writing Workshop, as a
teacher, you are allowing your students a significant amount of time to write in
their Writer’s Notebook and/or draft/edit/revise/publish a piece of writing.
• Minilessons are one, focused concept that can be applied to writing. Keeping a
lesson focused to one concept allows students to focus in and be successful at
practicing a specific writing behavior each day.
• Minilessons allow teachers the time during independent writing to have writing
conferences with their students to determine their strengths and weaknesses as
individual students and determine each student’s Zone of Proximal Development
(ZPD). Once this is determined, teachers are able to have collaborative conferences
with students to build on what they know and help students add to their
knowledge about writing to ultimately make themselves better writers.
• Minilessons allow teachers the time during independent writing to meet with guided
writing groups.
• Writing minilessons teach students how to think like a writer/author.
• Writing minilessons can be applied to all students’ independent writing, regardless
of skill level. This allows the teacher to teach a whole group lesson that all
students can apply while still having time for small group guided writing and
individual writing conferences.
• Minilessons are structured in a way that allows students to construct their own
meaning from a writing concept each day and apply it to their independent
writing.
• During minilessons, teachers are modeling what writers do as they are writing in
order to take on different types of thinking and skills surrounding writing. This
modeling of thinking supports inquiry-based learning.
Explanation of Minilesson Parts
Author Talk (1-2 minutes):
During an author talk, the goal for teachers is to give students information about
famous authors that will get students to see that authors are real people who
have gone through the same struggles, processes, and successes that they have
as writers. Getting students to build that bridge helps them view themselves as
writers. An author talk can be a quote from a famous author, a piece of an
author interview, a clip of author biographical information, etc. that will illicit
some talk surrounding that author that can be referred to again and again.
Rationale/Activate Background Knowledge (2-3
minutes):
During this portion of a minilesson, teachers may ask students a question about
what they know relating to today’s minilesson and have students either turn and
talk with a partner, share in a small group, or share a few responses with the
whole class. This is the time in a minilesson where teachers are also explaining to
their students why they are learning what they are learning today in Writing
Workshop.
Minilesson Statement (1-2 minutes):
A minilesson statement is telling what the learning goal or target is for the day.
One of the most important things to remember when constructing a minilesson
statement is that it should be one concept pertaining to writing, not multiple
concepts. Minilesson statements are always phrased in a way that will show
students what they should be taking on as learners for today. For that reason,
all minilessons are phrased like, “Writers (complete a certain reading behavior) so
that (providing the rationale for why they are learning that skill). Students
should always write the minilesson down in their Writer’s Notebook in order to
have a record of all the skills that they’re taking on as writers.
Modeling (3-5 minutes):
The modeling is the portion of the lesson where the teacher is modeling exactly
what it is that he/she would like students to do as writers on that day. Modeling
can at times be explicit teaching to explain what it is that students will be doing
as writers for that day, but it also could be a fishbowl where students are
watching a writing behavior that is being demonstrated to the class and noticing
what it is that is going on and writing it down in their Writer’s Notebooks.
Another way to model is for teachers to demonstrate what they are asking
students to do in writing that day through their own writing in their Writer’s
Notebook and sharing it with students. Seeing their teacher as a writer
completing the same concepts as them is very motivating to students. Using
mentor texts can also be an effective form of modeling for the Writing Workshop.
Have-a-go (2-3 minutes):
This is a time for students to give what the teacher is talking about during the
modeling portion of the minilesson a try. A have-a-go is meant for students to get
a little support and start finding ideas that will help them be successful in the
application of the day’s minilesson. A have-a-go could be asking students to turn
and talk with their neighbor about their ideas surrounding the day’s minilesson,
making a chart or list as a class that will help them generate ideas about the
days minilesson, etc.
Application (15-30 minutes):
This is the time for students to try out the minilesson concept while writing in
their Writer’s Notebook or drafting, editing, revising, or publishing a piece of
writing. This is also the time for teachers to hold individual writing conferences
with students and/or hold guided writing groups.
Share/Self-Evaluation (3-5 minutes):
During this time, students share with the whole class, small groups, or partners
what it is that they learned as writers that day, why it was helpful/important to
learn that, and/or how they will apply this writing concept in the future. This is a
great place for teachers to be able to take notes to understand which students
understood the concept and which students may need further work with the
concept in a small group or individual conference. This is the part of the minilesson
that makes learning generative and gives the teacher a quick, formative
assessment based on student response.
Extension:
An optional part of the minilesson would be to have students continue to work on
this concept of writing during assigned writing time at night to further enhance
their understanding of the writing minilesson.
Template for Planning a Minilesson
Author Talk (Name of Author/What I will cover about that author):
Rationale/Activate Background Knowledge
(Question to activate
background knowledge, key understanding that I will share with students):
Minilesson Statement (Writers ________________________ so that ____________________________.):
Modeling
(How will I model this concept to students so that they are able to take on the
writing concept from today’s minilesson during the application?):
Have-a-go (How will I support students to get them thinking about this minilesson in
relation to themselves as writers before asking them to apply the concept independently?):
Application (What will I ask students to do as writers today to demonstrate that they
understand the minilesson concept?):
Share/Self-Evaluation (What question will I ask my students to share about their
learning as writers today? How will they share?):
Extension
(Would I like them to continue this learning in their independent writing
tonight? If so, how would I like them to do this?):
Self-Evaluation of the Writing Minilesson:
-Did I include all of the essential elements of the minilesson, including an author
talk, minilesson statement, model, have-a-go, application, share, and extension?
-How long was my minilesson? If my minilesson was too long, was it because of one
of the common reasons for long minilessons below?
• I gave too many examples during the modeling.
• I talked for too long while I was explaining the minilesson, telling my
students versus allowing them to construct their own knowledge.
• I wasn’t prepared for the lesson and had to scramble to find materials.
• My minilesson wasn’t based on a single concept, but instead, I expected my
students to apply multiple concepts to their independent writing today.
• I did unnecessary things like such as showing video clips instead of teaching
my students.
• I allowed for too many tangents, side-talk, and/or stories instead of staying
focused on the learning concept for the day.
-What did my students learn as writers today? How do I know they learned this?
Does what they learned match up to what I wanted them to learn?
-Did I provide a supportive model to my students that allowed them to understand
the thinking surrounding writing that I was asking them to do during the
application of the minilesson?
-Which students will I have to confer with about this thinking? Should I pull a
small group of students to reinforce this concept or visit it further in guided
writing?
-What do my students need next as writers?
Types of Writing Minilessons
*Teaching writing is so much more than giving a writing
assignment, explaining it to students, and having them take
a pencil and going for it. Students need explicit writing
instruction through modeling and guided practice before
being released into the writing lesson for that day.
Minilessons should happen daily through each phase of the
writing process in order to break the process into meaningful,
achievable chunks for students.
• Free write minilessons
o Example: “Writers write freely about topics of their choice so
that they’re able to explore and establish themselves as
writers.”
• Idea-generating minilessons
o Example: “Writers can sketch before writing words so that
they are able to generate ideas to help their readers visualize
what’s going on in their writing.”
• Drafting minilessons
o Example: “Writers write all of their ideas about a topic they
would like to pursue into draft form so that all of their ideas
are in one place.”
• Revising minilessons
o Example: “Writers revise their writing to add meaningful
dialogue so that the reader is able to better understand the
characters in the story.”
• Editing minilessons
o Example: “Writers edit their writing for correct homophone
usage so that their readers are able to fully understand the
author’s intent.”
Sample Writing Minilesson
(Revision Minilesson for Memoir Writing)
Author Talk
“Good feedback forces writers to re-envision certain parts of our work. To the stubborn, defensive writer,
this new vision is hostile; it threatens us and our writing, and we try to come up with excuses or defenses
for what exists in our work so that we don't have to change it. To the writer with a beginner's mind,
though, this new vision is an opportunity to experience our work in a new, different way-- like a Choose
Your Own Adventure book, offering a different path that may actually be more enjoyable than the
first.” (Taken from Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, blog post titled, “Beginner’s
Mind and Revision.”) Share this quote with students and discuss its implication in to their
writing as they do a revision minilesson today.
Rationale/Activating Background Knowledge
Pose the question to students, “When you’re reading a book, how does what characters say in
dialogue help you get to know them as a reader?”
Minilesson Statement
“Writers revise their writing to add meaningful dialogue so that their readers are better able to
understand the characters intentions, personalities, and relationships to other characters in
their writing.”
Modeling
Project the draft of your memoir onto your Smartboard and think aloud to students about
revising the places you currently have dialogue to make the dialogue more meaningful. Also
think aloud about places to add dialogue where it currently doesn’t exist and explain why you
believe this would improve your memoir. Also critically examine your dialogue tags.
Have-a-go
Ask students to take out their draft and a highlighter and highlight one piece of current
dialogue in their writing. Next, ask them to turn and talk with a partner to discuss what they
like about this piece of dialogue and how they could strengthen it.
Application
Have students highlight all of the dialogue they have already included and go through and
revise it. Also have them add dialogue where it currently does not exist. Explain to students
that today they are revising for this specific purpose alone.
Share
Have several students share one piece of dialogue they added or revised with the whole class.
Extension
Have students look into their independent reading books for ideas on how to further strengthen
their dialogue by examining what published authors do and its effectiveness.
Works Cited
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching
Comprehension, Genre, and Content literacy. Portsmouth, NH:
Heinemann.
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (2006). Teaching for Comprehending and
Fluency: Thinking, Talking and Writing about Reading, K-8. Portsmouth, NH:
Heinemann.
Want further information on the
different pieces of a Balanced Literacy
teaching framework?
*For information on Interactive Read Alouds from
my blog, click HERE.
*For information on Interactive Edits from my blog,
click HERE.
*For information on Interactive Vocabulary from my
blog, click HERE.
*For products in my TpT store featuring a Spelling and
Word Work focus, click HERE.
*For products in my TpT store featuring a Reading
Workshop focus, click HERE.
*For products in my TpT store featuring a Guided
Reading focus, click HERE.
*For products in my TpT store featuring a Literature
Circles focus, click HERE.
*For products in my TpT store featuring a Writing
Workshop focus, click HERE.
Thank you to the following for the
graphics and fonts used in this
product: Copyright © 2014 Kasey Kiehl
All rights reserved by author.
Permission to copy for single
classroom use only. Electronic
distribution limited to single
classroom use only. Not for
public display.
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