Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).


Selected Works

DVD

Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.

Non-fiction

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.

Nonfiction

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

QUICK LINKS

E-mail the author

Authors Guild

findauthors

Leah Mermelstein
536 Grand Street, Ste. 501,
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(917) 503-1947

leahmermelstein@earthlink.net

1Leah best writing consultant 1.4 copy

Blog Posts are Below:

_______________________________________________________________________________

Minilessons: How to make them more effective and less stressful!

1st-grd-groupPicture this classroom scene. You are teaching a writing minilesson. When the lesson is completed, you ask students to try what you just taught. For some, this is no big deal. What you taught makes sense and fits into what they are currently working on. For others, it’s tougher. They are either unsure about what you taught or what you taught doesn’t fit into what they want to do that day. You know you should be conferring with individuals and small groups. Instead, you are circling around the room reminding, kids to do what you asked them to.

Picture this instead. You are teaching a writing minilesson and you give kids choice on whether or not they try it. Many, in fact, do try what you taught, but some do not. You are easily able to confer with individuals and small groups because all of the kids are deeply involved in their writing.

Do you insist, as the teacher in the first scenario did, that everyday kids try what you teach? Are you frustrated because even though you are insisting that kids try it, you have many kids who get nothing accomplished?

Or do you give kids choice as the second scenario suggests but find that kids are unsure how to handle this choice?

Giving kids a choice in whether or not they do the minilesson typically involves some forethought and planning: Some questions that typically arise are:

  • How do I get kids deeply engaged in their writing?
  • What else would kids be working on if they weren’t trying the minilesson?
  • How do I ensure that my kids practice what I teach?
  • Is it okay if they NEVER try what I teach?

This forethought and planning is so worth it! Once minilesson choice is established in your classroom, Writing Workshop will be less stressful and more effective. And who doesn’t want that?

How do I get kids deeply engaged in their writing?

In order for kids to make wise choices about the minilesson, they must be deeply engaged in their writing. In Lucy Calkin’s book, The Art of Teaching Writing, she says, “We teach into our students intentions. Our students are first deeply engaged in their self-sponsored work and then we bring them together to learn what they need to know in order to do that work.” There are many ways to get kids engaged in self-sponsored work but one important way is through immersion. Kids are not writing during this time, but rather reading as a way to get ideas for their writing. This is most effective if you do it for multiple days, but even starting your unit with a day of immersion will help students become more invested and more well versed in the genre they are about to write.  If you are interested in learning more about immersion check out my book on self-directed writers.

What else would kids be working on if they weren’t trying the minilesson?

Immersion not only gets kids excited about what they are about to write, but it also provides them with many options of what they can do during Writing Workshop. It’s essential to let kids know that anything they notice during immersion can/should be tried throughout the unit. Another option for what kids can be doing instead of the minilesson is what they have learned during previous minilessons, conferences, small group or even share sessions. Again, it will be important to remind kids of this often, especially if they are new to having this type of choice.

How do I ensure that my kids practice what I teach?

Many teachers plan their Writing Workshop lessons using what is called the architecture of the minilesson. In this architecture, there is a part entitled active engagement. This is the perfect opportunity to ask all kids to try together what you are hoping they will eventually be able to do on their own. For example, if you are doing a minilesson on different types of thesis statements, your active engagement that day might be to have the entire class discuss possible thesis statements for the class essay. Even if you don’t use the architecture of a minilesson, you will want to have a time in your lesson where kids quickly try what you taught. At times, one lesson on a concept is not nearly enough. Another way to facilitate learning is to do multiple lessons on a topic. These lessons should be not be repetitive, but rather they should go deeper into a concept, as well as clearing up students’ confusions. In this scenario, your minilesson might not be the expectation on day one, but after you have taught the concept over time in subsequent minilessons, conferences or small groups it would be expected that all students try it.

Is it okay if they NEVER try what I teach?

At times, the answer to this question is yes. Sometimes the purpose of your minilesson is to expose kids to a concept and then move on. With careful planning, the exposed concept will be revisited either later in the year or in subsequent years. A common question that arises is How do I know which concepts to teach over time and which ones to expose kids to? Whether you plan your own units of study or use resources, it’s essential to do some sort of assessment at the start of your study. You can then use that assessment to make goals for your class. Those goals should help you tailor your unit to the kids sitting in front of you. The minilessons that relate to your established goals will be the ones that you want to slow down and teach in-depth. The minlessons that don’t relate to your goals will be the ones you expose kids to and then move on.

I began this blog post by emphasizing that giving kids minilesson choice requires planning and forethought. I hope this has given you a window into what some of that thinking might look like.

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts! I would especially love to hear your successes and struggles with minilessons.

Happy teaching!

Until next time,

Leah

4 Responses to Minilessons: How to make them more effective and less stressful!
  1. Cheryl
    November 23, 2016 | 5:26 pm

    Such wise advice, Leah. I’d love to see more time and emphasis placed on immersion. It’s such an essential part of the process and seems to have been put on the back burner.

    • Leah
      November 24, 2016 | 12:25 am

      Hi Cheryl,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. In all of my work, I beg people to do immersion. When people are brave and do it despite the time constraints they almost always say it is worth it. I think almost any problem in writing can be solved with immersion! 🙂
      Leah

  2. Paula Jensvold
    November 24, 2016 | 1:28 am

    Hi Leah,

    Such a great reminder about immersion! Teachers often feel that there is never enough time to “get through” everything they are suppose to teach, leaving them to skip parts of units such as immersion and pre-assessments. This year our focus for our children has been to teach them to SLOW down, take their time and have pride in their writing work. With busy daily lives at home (sport practices, music lessons, iPad games, working parents, etc), children seem to be so rushed that it is difficult for them to slow down and be thinkers. I think immersion fits perfectly into this concept. It allows them time to think, verbally rehearse and have conversations about writing. Children need to have time to learn about what is being taught as well as become invested and interested in their writing. You can never go wrong with giving children the gift of “time”.

  3. Leah
    November 24, 2016 | 10:19 am

    Paula,
    It is so great to hear from you and I remember so clearly being in your classroom during immersion and your wonderful blog post on immersion. It makes my heart happy to hear of others who value immersion. As I said before, I believe most problems in writing can be solved with solving down, with inquiry, with immersion. I hope we can catch up soon. It has been too long!!!! xo

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://bestwritingconsultant.com/minilessons-how-to-make-them-more-effective-and-less-stressful/trackback