Teachers Network
Translate Translate English to Chinese Translate English to French
  Translate English to German Translate English to Italian Translate English to Japan
  Translate English to Korean Russian Translate English to Spanish
Lesson Plan Search
Our Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Popular Teacher Designed Activities
TeachNet NYC Directory of Lesson Plans TeachNet NYC Dirctory of Lesson Plans

Teachers Network Leadership Institute
How-To Articles
Videos About Teaching
Effective Teachers Website
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Teacher Research
For NYC Teachers
For New Teachers

TeachNet Grant:
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
Other Grant Winners
Math and Science Learning
Impact II
Grant Resources
Grant How-To's
Free Resources for Teachers
Our Mission
   Press Releases
   Silver Reel
   2002 Educational Publishers Award


New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy
Planning Mini-Lessons for Writing Workshops
Miriam Bissu

Selecting topics for mini-lessons can be puzzling. It can be especially overwhelming with children in the early grades who are just beginning to write. As in reading, they seem to need so many different skills at the same time. How does a teacher decide on topics for mini-lessons that would be most beneficial to students? How does a teacher assess student needs and gear instruction to meet those needs?

For starters, teachers need to know the curriculum for their grade. Knowledge of the standards will inform teachers of what is age-appropriate for their students and what is expected of them. This knowledge is the foundation for mini-lessons geared to student needs.

I find it helpful to think of the standards as the final destination of a long journey. As in any long trip, I decide what I need for my journey. I assess what I already have and what I need to obtain for a successful journey. As I go along I look at my short and long term needs. I re-evaluate my plan and make necessary revisions to help me reach my final destination.

Writing workshop is a time for teachers to zero in on the writing curriculum and standards. The typical format is as follows:

  1. The teacher begins the workshop with a mini-lesson (15-20 minutes);
  2. the children practice writing (20 minutes);
  3. the children share their writing and assess each other's work (20 minutes).

How to Plan Successful Mini-Lessons

  1. Assess student work: Informal assessment of student work can take place when children are writing. You can circle the room looking at works-in-progress. I frequently take notes on a clipboard to use as a guide for future planning. Conferences with students about their work will help you determine skills that many of the students need. The information gathered in these sessions are used to plan your mini-lessons.
  2. Plan mini-lesson: Choose a topic based on your informal assessment. Some topics might include
    • Capitalization
    • Punctuation
    • Quotation marks
    • Using the word wall and charts on display
    • Using word lists
    • Word study
    • Copying words accurately
    • Using a spelling "try sheet"
    • Thinking of a topic
    • Sequencing your ideas
    • Illustrating your story
    • Working with a partner
    • Collecting and using interesting words
    • Finding interesting adjectives and adverbs
    • Collecting favorite phrases

    I like to vary my mini-lessons and choose from a menu of many topics. I might intersperse lessons on capitalization with one on using interesting words. A favorite of mine is "Instead of Said" or "Said is Dead" in which children collect words from authors which convey the meaning of "said" in a more interesting way. We have an on-going list of such words posted in the room to refer to.

  3. Provide instruction: Once you have selected a topic for a mini-lesson, gather the children in front of an easel and model the skill you want them to learn. For example, demonstrate how you not only stretch out words, but sometimes you copy a word from a printed text. Ask the children where they have seen the word in print. Ask them to locate it on the word wall, a word list, chart, or published text and demonstrate how you check to see if you copied it correctly. At the end of your mini-lesson, before the children go off to write on their own, tell them you will be looking for evidence that they are practicing the skill taught in the lesson.

  4. Student practice: Use this time to circulate about the room and confer with students. Prepare a list of students who are practicing the skills you are teaching so that you might ask them to share their work at the end of the session. In this way you are reinforcing the skills you are teaching and praising those who are applying their learning to their writing.

  5. Re-assess: Gather the children in a circle so that they have eye contact with each other. Ask for volunteers to share and call on those who you have noted are successful at practicing the skills you presented earlier. Be sure that you and your students provide both positive feedback and constructive criticism to all of the students who are sharing.

Careful assessment, planning, implementation, re-assessment and revision on the part of the teacher, and practice by the student will contribute greatly to the success of your writing workshops.

For more ideas on writing workshop and shared writing visit the following pages:


Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.


Journey Back to the Great Before