When a teacher needs to teach a specific concept, especially when it relates to reading or writing, they often use mini lessons to teach the concept quickly and easily. Mini lessons can also be used to fill up a small pocket of extra time. Although the specifics of a mini lesson vary, many education experts agree that a mini lesson should last no more than ten to fifteen minutes, and should contain four basic components, called “connection,” “teaching,” “active engagement,” and “link.”
The first of the four components of a mini lesson is “Connection.” Students will only become engaged in the learning process if they can connect it to something that matters to them. If possible, this means explaining how students can apply the idea in the mini-lesson to their lives. Normally, however, when this is not possible or practical, you could simply connect it to something they have already learned in class. In this way, the mini lesson is no longer teaching about some nebulous concept, disconnected from anything they know. Instead, it is strongly related to a concept that they have already mastered in previous lessons.
What does this component of a mini lesson sound like? You could say something like “Yesterday we talked about counting by twos. Today we are going to learn how to count by fives.” Or, for a mini lesson on topic sentences: “I noticed that in your essays about the book we read, some of you had difficulty coming up with a good topic sentence. Let’s take a look at what makes a strong topic sentence so that you’ll be able to do it easily for your next essay.”
Most teachers feel like the teaching component of a mini lesson is the most basic. After all, all that you have to do is just teach the concept that the mini lesson is about. The main difference between the teaching component of a mini lesson and the instruction component of a typical lesson is that in a mini lesson, the teaching component should focus on one key idea - and only one. Whittle down the information until you’re sure that you are teaching only one concept, rather than several small concepts disguised as a larger one. When you finish teaching the concept, stop.
Try to use several short examples of the concept if you can. For example, you might give several short pieces of writing to illustrate the concept, work out several math problems on the board, or discuss several historical events that prove your point. Again, make sure to keep these examples short and sweet - no more than a minute for each example, if possible.
In a typical lesson, this section would take the most time. In a mini lesson, however, this component should be kept short. It should not require students to write a full paragraph, do a complex problem, or create anything that would take more than a minute or so. Instead, it should be as the title reflects, an active engagement with the learning. This can be a “Turn and Talk,” in which students turn to the person next to them and discuss the answer to a question. It can also require students to write just a sentence or two in response to what you have just taught them.
The last of the mini lesson components is the “Link” component, in which you tie the content of the mini lesson back to your students’ experience. This is a short statement, no more than a sentence or two, that brings closure to the mini lesson. For example, you might say something like “From now on, make that your topic sentences always focus on the main point of the paragraph.”
These four components of a mini lesson will help you engage your students in learning about a topic and make sure to keep it relevant to their lives. Make sure to keep your mini lesson short and simple, and only focus on one main concept throughout the duration of the mini lesson.
This post is part of the series: Writing Lessons and Mini Lessons
The mini lesson is an often overlooked tool that teachers can use to teach basic writing skills. This series of article discusses various mini lessons you can use in your classroom.