Mini-Lesson Ideas – Writing Workshop Wednesdays

If you missed the first three parts of Writing Workshop Wednesdays…click below to catch up.
Today I’ll be sharing with you some Mini-Lesson Ideas that I have used in my classroom.  As I mentioned in the last few posts, if you have Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study – use those for your mini-lessons. If you don’t, use your standards to guide them.  My Mini-Lesson Ideas below are examples from when I didn’t have the resource and just created my own Mini-Lessons based on my past use of Writing Workshop, the standards, and where my kids were at.  A quick reminder – Mini-Lessons should only be 5-10 minutes.  Remember the majority of Writing Workshop time should be spent with the kids writing.
Beginning of the Year Mini-Lessons:
The biggest thing that I can stress, especially at the beginning of the year, is to model, model, and model some more. If Writing Workshop is going to be successful, you need to go slow and introduce each part through modeling.
Here are some basic lessons I start with:
  • Brainstorming Ideas – I often use a circle map. I put the word “ideas” in the middle circle and start brainstorming ideas for the larger circle.  I model how to do this and try to pick examples from when I was a child that I know kids will relate to.  I explain that they are all things I’ve done or experiences I’ve been through.  Some examples include – riding a bike for the first time, trip to Disneyland, seventh birthday party, first day of school, field trip to the zoo, etc.  The nice thing about coming up with a big brainstorming list is that as kids finish stories they have something to get ideas from if they don’t know what to write next.
  • Filling Out Graphic Organizer – As I mentioned I used the Small Moments Writing Pack from Leigh Langton. I also modeled how to take one of my ideas from the circle map and how to fill in the graphic organizer to plan my story. I always point out to the kids that this isn’t the draft. This is their chance to map out what they’re going to write. I don’t require complete sentences or it to be totally filled in.  They just need enough to help them plan their story.
  • Model How to Write Draft from Graphic Organizer – This is another big one. I normally model this a time or two or more as needed.  Kids need help fleshing out their story from the graphic organizer. We don’t want kids to just copy what they planned and call that their draft. We want them to flesh their story out and add details.  I model this one very slowly…
           Small Moments Writing Pack
Standards-Based Mini-Lessons
A big chunk of my mini-lessons are spent covering various writing standards. At my school, we don’t use Common Core and we grade pretty much only Writing Mechanics in second grade. So, most of my mini-lessons were focused on capitals, end marks, quotations, commas, etc. We also teach the 6 traits at my school. So, in addition to more grammatical lessons, I also taught lessons on organizing your paper, sentence structure/fluency, word choice, and more.
Here are a few examples of lessons I did:
  • Capitals – To teach capitals, which is normally more of a review in second grade, we started by watching a Brainpop Jr. clip. Brainpop has many wonderful clips and it’s a fun way to start a writing lesson. Then, as a class we created an anchor chart.  This anchor chart shows times and reasons why we need to use capital letters.  On a separate day, after working on capitals for a few days, I had the kids look at one of my writing pieces and help me edit it. When we edited it, we only focused on capitals.  They love being helping the teacher fix her writing :-).
My story that we edited for capital letters together as a class.
  • End Marks – I teach end marks a similar way to capitals. We started by a review video on Brainpop.  Then, we created an anchor chart covering the three different end marks. I like anchor charts because they are created together with the class and then displayed on the wall so the kids can refer back to them (and they really do).  Then, again, I had a writing piece about a class activity that the kids helped me correct.  When they are helping me correct, it makes it easier to suggest that the focus that day be “look through your paper – did you get all the end marks?”
End Marks Anchor Chart – Class Created
My story that we edited for end marks together as a class.
  • Adding Details – For adding details, this is a big focus at the beginning of the year.  Some students like to write the bare minimum and be done.  For this one, I show them two examples of the same story. I then ask them to be the teacher and tell me, which story is better and why. We then talk suggestions for how I can improve the one that wasn’t as good.  During share time, when the focus is details, I pick students to share who have really added some strong details to their story. The more exposure kids have to it in mini-lessons and share, the more likely they are to do it in their own writing.
My example – Version #1
My example – Version #2
  • Word Choice – This was one of my favorite mini-lessons. I started with a whole group activity. I gave them the sentence “The dog ate.”  We discussed how this is a sentence, but it really doesn’t tell us much and it is very exciting. They then helped me create a few different ideas for how to make it better. See examples below. Then, the next day, I put a sentence up on the projector and the students made a better sentence on their white boards. This activity went so well!! They loved being creative and in turn it helped them improve word choice in their own writing pieces during writing time.
Whole Group Word Choice Lesson
The pictures below are independent practice:
  • Commas – Commas was another area where we started with Brainpop and then moved on to the anchor chart.  Some of the kids got it right away and I also implemented it in our Friday Fix-It Morning Message.
Mini-Lessons Planning Page –
I’ve used the below planning page to help me plan out  my Mini-Lessons.  Download your own copy,
Thank you for stopping by today to see some ideas for Writing Workshop Mini-Lessons.
Here’s what’s coming up next in the series…
-Teaching Editing -Publishing Pieces -Tying Up Loose Ends

FREE Writing Checklists

Picture of four writing checklists.
To make your life easier I have a FREE set of writing checklists for your students to use! These are geared towards the primary grades and include 8 different checklists – so you’ll be able to differentiate based on what you’re teaching and your students’ needs. Grab your writing checklists HERE.
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