The mini-lesson is a key component of effective reading instruction. By definition, a mini-lesson is a period of direct and explicit instruction on a single literacy objective. The beauty of the mini-lesson is that it is brief, to the point, and impactful. In this blog post, we will explore the many benefits of the mini-lesson and why every teacher should use them in their instruction.
Benefit #1: Direct and explicit instruction
The mini-lesson is a period of direct and explicit instruction that lasts between five and 15 minutes. During this time, teachers focus on teaching one literacy objective. This objective can be anything from vocabulary to comprehension strategies. It’s important to be explicit in your explanation of how learning this teaching point will help your children as readers.
When you teach a mini-lesson, you are providing your students with direct and explicit instruction on a single teaching point. This means that your students are getting focused, targeted instruction that will help them learn the objective at hand. And because the mini-lesson is brief, your students will be more engaged and attentive throughout the lesson.
Benefit #2: Gradual release model
The gradual release model of instruction is a teaching strategy that breaks down a task or skill into smaller, more manageable chunks. The teacher provides instruction on a specific reading task, then gradually releases responsibility for completing the task to the student. This allows students to become comfortable with the task and master it before moving on to the next step. You may have heard of the I do, We do, You do method – this is gradual release!
The gradual release model is often used in mini-lessons because it allows students to see the reading skill in action and then practice it under the guidance of the teacher. This model is especially beneficial for struggling readers who need extra support in understanding new concepts.
Benefit #3: Prepare children for independent reading
One of the goals of the mini-lesson is to prepare students for reading and work during independent reading. By explicitly linking the learning they just did with you to the work they will do on their own, students will feel more confident and comfortable reading on their own. This confidence and comfort leads to increased independence, engagement, and ultimately, achievement.
Implementing the Mini-Lesson
There are four steps to implementing the mini-lesson: introduction, modeling, guided practice, and independent practice. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
The introduction should last no longer than a few minutes. During this time, you will gain your students’ attention and explain what you will be working on today. For example, “Today we’re going to be working on determining the meaning of unfamiliar words when we encounter the in our reading.” It’s important to keep your objectives short so students can master the skill.
After you’ve introduced the lesson objective, it’s time to model it for your students. This is where you show them what you expect them to do. For example, read a section of a book or short story and demonstrate through a think-aloud what you do when you come upon an unfamiliar word. Make sure that you are modeling what you want your students to do so they understand what they’re supposed to do when you release the task to them.
Once you’ve modeled the objective for your students, it’s time for them to try it themselves with some guidance from you. This guided practice should last about five minutes. As students are working, walk around and offer help as needed so that everyone is successful.
In our example of determining the meaning of unfamiliar words, you could provide students with a short reading where you are certain there is at least one word your students don’t know. You could have them work in pairs to work through the process you just demonstrated to determine the meaning of the word.
After students have had a chance to practice the objective with some guidance, it’s time for them to try it on their own. This independent practice should occur during silent reading time. During this time, students will work on their own to apply what they’ve learned.
For example, you could ask students to find two unfamiliar words as they read. Then use the strategies you’ve just taught and they’ve just practiced to determine the meaning. You could have them complete this on paper, or you could check in with each student during reading conferences or small group instruction.
The mini-lesson is a powerful instructional tool that every teacher should use in their instruction. By providing direct and explicit instruction on a single objective, using a gradual release model, and preparing children for independent reading, mini-lessons are an effective way to support student learning. Try using mini-lessons in your instruction and see how they can benefit your students!
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