Sunday, October 4, 2015

Making Mini-Lessons Magnificent

In our Buckner Literacy Project cadre we recently spent time really looking closely at the mini-lesson. We had previously studied the workshop as a whole- breaking down the purpose of each structure, routine, ritual and thinking of it as a system. But this month, we dug into the every complex mini-lesson. For being such a short component of time, it sure does offer a lot to think about. Who knew how complicated and messy a mini-lesson could be?

Three of our very own seasoned teachers let us into their rooms to watch as they navigated this beginning part of the workshop journey. We saw the both the traditional approach in reading as well as the catch and release in a more "upside down" workshop approach in math. Both offered us a lot of food for thought.  Below you will find a list of the cadre's noticings and a structure(template) for planning effective mini-lessons. No matter how many years you've been teaching, a little refresher about the essentials of mini-lessons never loses its luster.

Cadre members made powerful noticings about the importance of the following critical components:

Ø Using a specific text or problem that serves a purpose later
Ø  Sticky notes in book of ‘Think aloud” thoughts (variety of thoughts, alleviates forgetfulness)
Ø  Each and every activity
Ø  Knowing how  you will communicate the lesson linking to previous content and real-life experiences

  • Clear expectations
    Ø  Give or ask students what they will need
    Ø  Name specific materials, behaviors, and noise level
    Ø  Set timer for workshop structure
    Ø  Countdown to next “thing” (I’ll count down from 10. 10, 9, 8…)

    Importance of guiding questions for Teachers and Students.
    Ø  Posting the GQ
    Ø  Reading the GQ (e.g. teacher, or student, or choral reading)
    Ø  Having the students think about the GQ during the mini-lesson (e.g. telling them the importance, student turn and talk, few share aloud, or just offering 30 sec. to ponder it)
    Ø  Setting up students to work toward understanding in the indept time and circling back to GQ in the share

    Teacher Modeling & Think Aloud
    Ø  Thinking aloud shows strategy in action
    Ø Offers a way of doing something

    Anchor charts (or showing the previous day's work)
    Ø  Played a role in all of your lessons to anchor learning or review schema
    Ø  Scaffolding of students' understanding
    Ø  Intentional reference to them
    Ø  Adding on to an anchor chart to show continued learning

    Questioning (open-ended, probing for why)
    Ø  What were you thinking?
    Ø  What in the text made you think ___?
    Ø  So you think ___.Why do you think that?
    Ø  What  is your evidence?
    How does ___ know? Is there another way?

    A little discourse: 1-2 Turn and Talks
    Ø  Foster students' thinking
    Ø  Build shared understanding
    Ø  Offer equity of voice.
    Ø  Could be intentionally planned them, or "sensed" by kids’ needed to talk about the question.

     I hope this helps to recharge and renew your very valuable mini-lessons. 

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