Day by Day: Mini-Lessons Cycle 1, Day 6

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 6: Strong Connections

Challenge: Work toward crafting stronger connections this week. Do this by thinking about what inspires and invigorates you so that you can think about ways to tap into that same power when you stand up before your students.

I’m hoping this focus on increased connections will work well with our author study this week of William Steig. I’m researching more about Steig’s biography to find out how it impacted his writing and his plots. I’m also connecting Steig’s use of fables and traditional stories to talk with our students about universal themes they may approach in their writing.

Look back on the mini-lesson connections you delivered this past week. Were they inspiring and invigorating for your students or were they boring?

We actually just started mini-lessons this week and I’ve been pretty militant on keeping them under 10 minutes, so I think they’ve been pretty invigorating.

Rate them and think about how you could’ve strengthened them, or consider what made them great.

I’ve been so afraid to get started that I’ve been super-specific and almost maddeningly clear. The upside is that for what they might lack in dramatic flair, they seem to make up for in being immediately useful for my students to use right away.

How did your students respond to your stronger connections?

My students who are looping up from last year could hardly contain themselves when we talked about the books we were using this year along with the books we read and used last year.

Were they more engaged while you taught?

Compared to last year, absolutely.

Did they produce better work?

I’m not sure — we’re still at the stage of producing work consistently so we have a range of writing to select from later.

Day by Day: Mini-Lessons Cycle 1, Day 5

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 5: Effective and Short

Challenge: Consider the list of ways to keep a mini-lesson concise, and think about what tends to be a cause for lengthy mini-lessons in your workshop Then spend a few days intentionally keeping your lessons short and effective.

Today, I laid out our writer’s workshop structure and told students that my lessons should never be longer than 20 minutes. I plan to give one student a stopwatch and ask him or her to let me know when I have five minutes left.

What is the average length of your mini-lessons during a week?

15-20 minutes

As you increased your awareness of the length of your mini-lessons, what did you notice about your instruction?

I notice that when I shorten my main lesson, I have more robust mid-workshop teaching points, and our sharing/closing section seems more meaningful rather than just an add-on.

Day by Day: Mini-Lessons Cycle 1, Day 4

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 4: Responding to Needs

Challenge: Create a space in your conferring notes to keep a list of potential mini-lessons. Be on a constant lookout for possibilities and jot them down.

I’ve added an extra page behind my group lesson plans for reading to record potential mini-lessons.

Taking a look at your list of possible mini-lessons, which are the most important to teach?

At this point in the year, making sure students feel encouraged to keep writing is key. We had four minutes of stamina, and I STILL had two students insist they had nothing more to say after three sentences. GAH.

Why are these the most important?

Because they will set the tone for the whole year — showing that “writer’s block” or “I’m thinking about what I’m going to write” aren’t excuses for inaction.

How could you go about teaching these lessons in the most effective way?

I’ll go another day or two using them as whole-group lessons, then I’ll follow up on them in small groups.

Day by Day: Mini-Lessons Cycle 1, Day 3

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 3: Strings of Mini-Lessons

Challenge: Look at your next unit of study in writing workshop. Record the skills you want your students to be able to walk away with once the unit is over. Those are your bends in the road. Then flesh out your teaching points, making sure they match up to the bend in the road they fall within, connecting them with the word by. If the sentence doesn’t flow or make sense when you link it with the word by, then it’s time to recraft the teaching points.

How is planning with bends in the road in mind similar to or different from the way you’ve planned units of study in the past?

What happened when you linked the teaching points with the bend in the road using the word by? Did you have to recraft any of the teaching points so they’d fit into the bend?

Day by Day: Mini-lessons Cycle 1, Day 2

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 2: Lessons they can’t help but remember

Challenge: Shake things up in an effort to get your students more engaged in your mini-lesson. While you’re still going to be the one speaking through the connecting and teaching parts of your lesson, think about ways you can creatively involve your students while you teach so that the lesson sticks.

What did you do out of the ordinary today?

What was your students’ response when they had a greater involvement or sense of engagement in today’s mini-lesson?

What makes you think your students will remember today’s lesson more than others you’ve taught in the past?

Day by Day: Mini-lessons Cycle 1, Day 1

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Mini-Lessons Cycle 1: Meaningful Mini-Lessons

Day 1: Keeping It Authentic

Challenge: Take a close look at the motives behind your mini-lessons. Are you offering lessons that matter? Determine your students’ attitudes toward the mini0lesson by noting their body language, engagement, and feedback. Spend time reflecting on ways to make upcoming mini-lessons more authentic.

How do your students act during the mini-lesson?

What are some ways your mini-lessons can become more authentic?

Day by Day: Routines Cycle 1, Day 9

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Routines Cycle 1: Revving Up

Day 9: Routines and Procedures for Guest Teachers

Challenge: Write down the procedures you have in place for writing workshop. Be sure to writing them so an outsider who has never stepped into your room before can follow this guide and lead your class in the event of your absence.

Now that you have a created a comprehensive guide to the routines of your writing workshop, how will you make your guide user-friendly and succinct so guest teachers, who don’t have a lot of time to prepare, can carry out these routines?

Will you share the guide you created with your students so they’re aware of it?

Will you ask them for input or will you rely on yourself to capture everything a guest teacher should know about the way workshop runs in your classroom?

Day by Day: Routines Cycle 1, Day 8

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Routines Cycle 1: Revving Up

Day 8: Be Honest!

Challenge: Determine your response to students who claim other people’s words or ideas as their own. Decide whether you will respond to individuals like I would, or whether there will be a blanket policy for everyone. Also consider some key lessons with regard to plagiarism.

I don’t know that plagiarism will be as big of an issue as having family members/friends “help” students complete any work at home. So far I’ve dealt with that by having students keep their writing notebooks at home, but I’m still thinking of what I should do if I start having students bring them back and forth…

What is your policy for plagiarism?

Honestly, we haven’t done enough writing that plagiarism has even been an issue.

How will you communicate the policy for academic dishonesty with your students?

When we’re working with nonfiction text, I expect to have several mini-lessons around how to turn another author’s facts and information into their own words.

What kinds of questions will you ask students who have plagiarized to learn their motivation behind the plagiarism?

Gosh, seriously?! I can’t even imagine having to deal with plagiarism! Um, I guess I’d ask them about their fears and insecurities related to writing and generating ideas?

Day by Day: Routines Cycle 1, Day 7

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Routines Cycle 1: Revving Up

Day 7: Plan Boxes

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Challenge: Set aside time to instruct your students about the importance of reaching their writing goals through careful planning. Guide them through the planning process by first having them think about how they’ll use their independent writing time. Next, have them tell their writing partner what they’ll do first, second, and third (if they finish early). Finally, have your students write down their plan in their notebook and show it to you before they leave the meeting area.

This quote has stuck with me ever since I first started typing the reflection parts of these posts during the summer. Because we’re now an AVID school, there have been many conversations about setting goals and putting a plan in place to achieve those goals. So I’m really excited to implement having a plan at a micro level in students’ writing notebooks. Heck, I’m sure I could benefit from one too!

Did any of your students take more than three minutes to craft a plan for their independent writing time? How will you support them in planning more quickly going forward?

Zoinks, I imagine some of them will. I’ll support them by crafting sample plans they can use.

Were any of your students not adhering to their plans?

I’m pretty sure I will have one barometer kid who will not adhere to his plan on a fairly regular basis, so I’ll work with him individually. I imagine some of my students will set too broad or too lofty goals.

How did you get them back on track?

I will encourage them to set two easier, attainable goals, but still keep one of their larger goals.

How will you get them to stay on track with their plan during the next writing workshop without a reminder from you?

I’ll have them articulate their plan to me before they write it down and begin so the plan is fresh in their mind.

Day by Day: Routines Cycle 1, Day 6

To see a complete list of the reflection activities and for an explanation of the program, visit my Day By Day Main Page.

Routines Cycle 1: Revving Up

Day 6: Meeting Areas are for Everyone

Challenge: Consider the effectiveness of your meeting area. Make changes to help you become more efficient during mini-lessons. If you have never developed a meeting area, make plans about how to include this essential part of writing workshop.

What do you like best about your meeting area?

What would you like to see improved about your meeting area?

How do you think the changes you’re planning to make will enhance student learning?