TCRWP CA Trip - Update# 6 - Architecture of a Mini-Lesson
22 June 2012
This is Lea, one of the presenters from Teacher's College...she's an absolute nut and writing workshop super smartie! She has taught me a ton about conferring, the language to use, how to research the writer and what to say to kids in a conference "this is what it looks like to [insert teaching point here...add strong feeling words, collect seed ideas, tell a small moment across some pages], now watch me do it in my writing." She taught us the architecture of a mini-lesson, how to plan and write mini-lessons (not maxi-lessons) by creating your teaching point first (called The Teach) and your connection second, active engagement third, and link last...these are the four part of a mini-lesson in writing workshop. A good connection is one that sets up the teaching point...a good connection is no longer than 30 seconds, and the connection is written after you have crafted your teaching point. When we craft our teaching point, we ask ourselves, "What am I teaching and how am I teaching it?"
Here is a example of the mini-lesson I crafted (with her help) in her session (5th grade-Personal Narratives-Collecting):
[in an enthusiastically excited voice!!!] "Boys and girls, remember how I told you I took that trip to CA and I had to fly on an airplane to get there? On the airplane I sat next to a couple who were having an argument because she forgot her sunglasses in his car and she wanted to buy a new pair when they got there and he told her 'no...that's a waste of money'...when he said that to her that made me feel mad...and then I realized that that was an emotional small moment with a strong feeling that I could write about."
[teaching them what]"So writers, [and I love that, I'm so calling my students writers from now on in writers workshop!!] today I want to teach you one way that writers collect small moments is by thinking about strong emotions. One way writers do this is by thinking of times when they felt...
[now teaching them how-always with steps] "First, we ask, when have I felt (emotion)? Then, we list a few small moments that fit with that emotion. Finally, we choose one moment and write a story, and then another, and then another..."[always avoiding the 'I'm done' syndrome] Then you will demonstrate in front of them doing what you just said, thinking out loud...an emotion and an example, another emotion, another example, another emotion, and example of that emotion. Then you say to students, "Did you see how I just did that? I thought of some strong emotions and thought of times in my life that I had felt that way."
Active Engagement: (getting kids to actively try it out before they leave the rug)**
"Now it's your turn to try it out. First, choose an emotion, write it down, and underline it. Then, think of a time in your life that you felt that feeling and write it down. Think of another emotion and time and write it down, and think of another emotion and time and write it down. Then share your lists with your partner. Partner A goes first, Partner B goes second. Then decide which emotion and time you like to use as your small moment story for your writing today. Choose one and go write your small moment story in your Seed Notebook." (During this time, there is no group sharing, unless the teacher quickly spotlights a child, only the partners are sharing when done with their lists).
Link: (before heading back to their seats)
"I'm going to remind you what I just taught you....here are the goals for writing today...this is what I taught you....and...this is what I expect of you...."
The whole mine-lesson is ((((only)))) 10 minutes long. The more we talk, the less they write...'not good'. Keep it mini...so they can write, write, write...like their pen [yes, pen] is on fire!
One short anecdotal story about Lea... when she taught in Palm Beach, Florida, she had Georgia Heard's son in her class....and all the teachers in the school were saying, "I don't want her in my class, oh, no way...and Lea said, "I'll take her, I want to learn, I want to get better" and Georgia would be there volunteering during writing workshop and afterwards she would say to Lea, and always in the sweetest voice, "that was a very sweet story in told in your mini-lesson, but what did you teach them?" and Lea would say, "Thanks [and chuckle]...I don't know" and Georgia Heard would coach her up...all the time, always graciously offering offering her time and support to anyone who wanted it...and Lea took her up on it because she wanted to get better, she knew she was learning from the best...and now laughs and says to her former colleagues..."and that' s why I'm up here coaching you and you're still teaching!" The lesson here is...when we keep our doors open and are willing to learn from each other...we learn so much about ourselves and we become better teachers.
Also, it was in her session that I finally "got" how important it is for me, the writing teacher to also be a writer, to "write and do" at home, in front of, ahead of time and alongside the students. "Your folder/notebook [and yes, you need to start one for yourself, that's what I'm saying] needs to match what you expect them to have in their notebook....have prepared pieces ahead in some cases." When they collect, you collect, when they draft, you draft, etc.
AND, the presenters (well, ok, just Lea) were super excited to hear that I'd made all borders and fonts for the institute (and they said Lucy would approve) that when I showed Lea the app on my iPad, she totally wanted to make a font...guess what she called it?....Hello Lea! ...and she was so excited that one (anyone) could MAKE a font..[I know Lea, isn't it great?]...anyway, thanks Lea for teaching me so much this week! You're an inspiration!