Clanin's Corner

January Newsletter

What is a Mini-Lesson?

  • Mini-lessons are short, succinct lessons (approximately 10 minutes) that focus on teaching students a needed procedure, behavior, or strategy.

  • The teacher chooses the mini-lesson based on the needs of the class group.

  • During the mini-lesson, the teacher uses clear demonstration and explicit teaching to lead the children in understanding the lesson objective.

  • After the demonstration, students practice.

  • Particular emphasis is placed upon why the objective is important and how its application makes one a better reader/writer.

  • Mini-lessons do not involve worksheets.

Why a Mini-Lesson?

As Lucy Calkins explains, "The mini lesson allows a teacher to convey a tip, skill, or strategy to students that they will use often" (Calkins 1986).

  • Students gain valuable, relevant skills on a regular basis without spending too much time on drill and worksheets that might otherwise be used to teach the same skills.
  • It is a short lesson, 7-10 minutes, with a narrow focus that provides instruction on a skill, strategy, or concept.
  • Gives the teacher time to meet with students in small groups and/or confer individually.

Components of a Mini-Lesson


Remind students of something familiar such as prior learning, a story from your class, or an anecdote that will connect to today’s teaching point.

Step 2. Teaching Point:

Tell the students exactly what you are going to teach them. Don’t be mysterious and make them guess. Be explicit and direct on one concept during the lesson (fix-up strategies, fluency, word choice, sentence fluency, inference, following characters over time, etc…).

Step 3. Demonstrate:

Use one very clear example to explicitly teach the skill/strategy from the teaching point which can be shown through the following:

  • Modeling
  • Guided practice
  • Explaining and giving examples
  • Inquiry

By using the following:

  • Your own writing
  • A student sample
  • A published mentor text
  • A class story—but not all four!

Clearly show all the steps of your teaching point by modeling the writing, reading, and thinking aloud as you do it.


Invites students to try something quick and small which lasts only 1-2 minutes:

  • Turn and talk- listen in as they talk
  • Thumbs up/down
  • Trying in their own book or writing
  • Role playing with a partner
  • Noting thinking on post-it, etc.

As you listen in, read notebooks, or review post-it notes jot down the names of students who are having trouble so that you can pull them together as a small group or confer with them individually after the mini- lesson to follow up or make accommodations.

Step 5. LINKS:

Make it very clear to students what you want them to do from the mini-lesson during independent practice time.

How Can You Measure Success?

To measure the success of the mini lesson, look at the student work to see if it has been affected by the topics addressed in the mini lessons.

It may be necessary to do more than one mini lesson on a given topic before improvement is seen throughout the class.