Mini Lessons and Their Effectiveness

    Mini lessons are where it's at. Not just because they're trendy, but because they're effective. For teachers who are used to giving long-winded lessons, mini lessons might seem scary. You might wonder how it's possible to effect learning in such a short time. In today's post, I am going to explain why mini lessons are more effective than the typical, long lectures we teachers are known for, as well as demonstrate an actual mini lesson with my class.

1. Mini lessons are short: Short lessons allow more time for kids to practice the concept. This is the scary part because we teachers feel that if we aren't talking, students aren't learning. The opposite is in fact true. The less we talk, the more time students have to work and improve.

2. Everyone gets what they need:  Your mini lesson will serve all students by providing them with the basics. The mini lesson is the "nuts and bolts" from which you then modify instruction while you confer, or work with partnerships and/or small groups.

3. Your STUDENTS (not you) will be doing most of the work (that's the way it's supposed to be). Mini lessons allow you to demonstrate a skill/concept, and the longer work time allows students to develop that skill/concept. Your role will be more of a coach or guide as you begin to see what students are doing, and what their next steps are (and they're all different). It's a win-win situation.

To see an actual mini lesson in action, watch the below video.

Note: This is the second day of my lesson on main idea. Therefore, you do not see me giving an explicit demonstration on determining the main idea (that happened in the first lesson). Instead, in this lesson I reminded students of the work we did the day before. The objective of this lesson was to extend our work from the previous day. What you also don't see is the students discussing the main idea of the bird book, or me reminding them what they had just practiced, and then sending them off to continue this work with their own books. As they did that, I worked with a small reading group.

Special notes:

*The structure of my mini lesson is borrowed from Lucy Calkins' Reading and Writing Workshop.

*Sometimes the Active Engagement might be longer than what you would typically do and, in my opinion, that is okay. I do this when the concept/skill is new and I want all students to spend a little longer time under my watchful eye.

Do you instruct with short mini lessons? I'd love to here about it.