6 Tips to Keep Your Mini-Lessons Mini

mini lesson strategies

The reading workshop model is highly effective to help students grow as readers. 

The first part of the workshop model is the mini-lesson. 

The mini-lesson is the time that you teach your students a specific strategy or skill that you want them to carry over into their own independent reading. It should be no more than 5-10 minutes. It is important to stick to this time limit since the biggest chunk of your reading workshop time is having your students read independently. For me, the hardest part of the mini-lesson is keeping it mini! 

Here are some strategies that I have found to be successful to keep my mini-lessons within ten minutes.

Use a Timer

readers workshop tips

Grab a timer and set it for eight minutes.  When it goes off, you know that you have to wrap up your mini-lesson. This gives you the opportunity to finish up what you are teaching or squeeze in a part from your lesson you did not address yet. 

You can use a large visual timer, a small timer on your smartboard, or an old finished wind-up timer. Anything works! After a week or two, you will start to get a feel for what ten minutes feels like while teaching and you will soon begin to finish right when the timer goes off! Don't worry about keeping the timer out of view from your students. Include them in your mission to keep your mini-lesson mini. By helping them become aware of the time restraints, they will understand when student talk time is kept to a minimum.  Click HERE* for the timer that keeps me in check.

Use a Guide 

reader's workshop forms for upper elementary

When I first started using a reading workshop modeled, I kept a mini-lesson planning template on a clipboard behind my chart paper stand. It is a great visual for me to help me move through each of the steps of the mini-lesson in a timely manner. You can also fill in the template with what you want to say and have the students do to maximize your mini-lesson time. The time it takes to plan out each part of the mini-lesson is worth it to help keep you on track for the short ten minutes that you have to teach!  Grab a copy of the mini-lesson template I use for FREE below.

Pre-write on Anchor Charts

readers workshop anchor charts

Anchor charts are a great way to remind the students the steps of different reading strategies that you teach them. 

My room is always covered with anchor charts! To save time during your mini-lesson, be sure to pre-write some of the information on your anchor charts like the headers and subheadings. Anchor charts should be interactive so be sure to leave space to record student ideas whenever possible. By creating anchor charts ahead of time, you will not only save time during your mini-lesson, but you will be creating a lesson guide to follow, too! Grab a reading workshop bulletin board banner set for FREE below.

Break Out of Your Reading Corner

Another way that I shave some time off of my mini-lesson is to take a break from teaching in my reading corner. By bringing our mini-lesson right in front of our smartboard, I am able to prepare all of my slides ahead of time and use each slide as a guide to move through the mini-lesson quickly and efficiently. The smartboard slides work as a prewritten script to keep you right on track! You can type out the teaching point, information you want to share with students, and leave blank slides to record student ideas. Working by the smartboard is especially time-saving for topics that require a longer mini-lesson like the introduction or closing lesson to a new unit.

Read Ahead of Time and Re-purpose Past Reading

launching readers workshop upper elementary

This is a HUGE time saver. 

Read your mentor texts at a different time during the day and then refer back to them, or simply reread a specific page or passage during your mini-lesson. I have found that reading aloud during odd times during the day like snack and ten-minute windows between lunch and specials is a great way to get all of my mentor texts read with my students. Look at your schedule and see where you can squeeze in some read-aloud time. Even just ten minutes somewhere else during the day will keep your mini-lesson mini!

My favorite corner of my classroom library is the corner with my previously read basket. This basket holds all the books and mentor texts that we have read aloud throughout the year. It is a great reference spot for both myself and my students. For me, it is a great spot to grab a book that we have already read and discussed for a previously taught reading strategy, that can be revisited with different reading lenses. One great book that works as a mentor text for many different reading strategies and skills is The Raft written by Jim LaMarche. This book is great to teach everything! (Grab it HERE) Character traits, how characters change, symbolism, visualization, making inferences, and so much more! 

By repurposing books, you save the time needed to read, discuss and digest new stories. Our previously read basked is a place that I often find my students visiting, too. They enjoy rereading books that we have already read to grasp a deeper understanding. This basket is especially great for struggling and reluctant readers since they are already familiar with the storyline in these previously read books.

When it comes to keeping your mini-lesson, mini, these tips will do the trick! Keeping your mini-lessons short will allow your students more time to read independently, which is the ultimate goal of reading workshop

Check out my favorite reading workshop resources HERE

Like these must-have Just Right Books pack!

just right books for kids

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launching reading workshop upper grades

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