Mini Lessons – Keep them Small
There has been an increased awareness of the ‘Mini-Lesson’. We’re using them in Maths – otherwise known as ‘hotspots’; we’re using them in reading, and more commonly in writing. They are great ways of quickly conveying information, getting student buy in, addressing noticeable gaps in knowledge, and moving on.
What Are Mini Lessons?
A while back I noticed that students had an issue in writing where their sentences went on and on and on without a full stop or a comma and often including more than one idea and the never ending storytelling that never allowed me to breathe while reading it. Much like that.
So I addressed it. We discussed sentences over the course of a week, spending 10 minutes at the start of the lesson each day discussing ideas, and including one idea at a time. Students helped me edit examples and decide where full stops should go. We even got into how to combine two ideas together. Student buy-in was high, and there was a noticeable improvement almost immediately.
The common issue with the Mini Lesson lies in the teacher. As a method, they are great, because student attention isn’t overworked, and they focus on one point.
However, being the great orators many of us are, and our passion for the act of ‘teaching’, Teachers often make the mini lesson less mini, and more lecture. Student interest wains, and their attention wanders elsewhere. It can go from a snappy, quick, and invigorating lesson, to a morbid affair with boredom, purely because of the length of time focussed on one thing.
The reality is, a good Mini lesson should have one key point that is the focus, and should be limited to 10 minutes. 15 at a push. But certainly no longer.
There are a number of things that you can do to avoid going overtime.
- Make sure you only have one focus for the lesson. Additional points, or sidetracks will only add to the length of time, and can potentially confuse the point of the Mini lesson for the students. If other issues come up that don’t fit into your key focus, but need to be a focus in the future, then put it in the plan for tomorrow. There is always another day.
- Set a timer. Let the student’s know what it’s for and they’ll keep you accountable to it. Believe me. As soon as the buzzer sounds, then that’s time up. Eventually however, this can become tedious, and may become a distraction for students. But it’s a viable solution if you’re learning how long you have in 10 minutes, and how much you can cover in the allotted time for the Mini lesson.
- Watch other teachers perform mini lessons can not only give you inspiration, but can also allow you to see for yourself how much they get through, and what time they allow for it. You can monitor the clock and see when ten minutes is up.