November 5, 2013

Text-to-Text Minilesson with Smart Board Example

In many of my blog posts I mention minilessons.  I receive a lot of e-mails and comments from readers of my blog asking about how I manage all of my middle school students in a Reader's Workshop format.  Below is an example of a minilesson that I recently did with my students.  I use my Smartboard on a daily basis to take students through the minilesson process.

I begin each day in Reader's Workshop with a book talk.  This is simply a short one-two minute plug for a book.  I try to vary genres and levels of difficulty with the books that I select.  During book talks I sometimes read the back cover, read an excerpt from the book, talk about the characters, setting, theme, etc.  I also have students sign up on a calendar and have one student per day give a book talk at different points throughout the year to give myself a break and let them get recommendations from their peers.

The minilesson was built off of the Common Core State Standard RL.8.5: Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style and RL.8.1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says exlicitly as well as inferences drawn from text.

Each minilesson begins with the minilesson statement which is framed Readers (skill, processing strategy, etc.) so that (the why).  I have students copy down the minilesson into their Reader's Notebooks.  It becomes our objective for the day,  It sets the purpose for our learning.

The next portion of the lesson is the modeling piece.  When I model for students, I literally ask myself what I'm asking students to be able to do that day and step into the role of a reader and complete that task to share with students how I would complete it.  This is something that I've added into the way I teach over the past three years.  Modeling for students what you will be asking them to do is a great scaffold for struggling readers, and also sets a high standard for advanced readers.  For modeling in Reading Workshop, it is so important to model with texts that all students are familiar with.  All students in my class have had The Tiger Rising and Out of My Mind read to them through Interactive Read Aloud (IRA).  This is just one of the reasons why IRA's are such an integral part of the Balanced Literacy framework at any level.

The next part of the minilesson is the "have-a-go" which is where students are involved in getting a little bit more support in relation to the minilesson before taking on the minilesson independently.  The have-a-go could involve a turn and talk with a neighbor, a share out with the whole class, etc.  For this particular minilesson, I chose to create a list as a class of possible ways that texts could be connected together.  This is what my class came up with.

The next portion of the minilesson is the application.  The application for this minilesson was to make two connections between two texts, citing evidence to support your connections.  Once I give students the minilesson application for the day, I immediately pull my guided reading group for the day.  All students, except for those in the guided reading group, will begin reading their independent reading book and/or working on the minilesson application.  I find that using my Smartboard to always have the directions/expectations in view is helpful, especially when my attention needs to be fully dedicated to my small group of students in guided reading.  Applications that I often use in Reader's Workshop are in the form of graphic organizers, interactive bookmarks, reading responses in their Reader's Notebooks, post-it notes to document thinking, etc.

I reserve the final four-five minutes of our Reader's Workshop time for a share.  When I first made the shift from the traditional middle school novel units, grammar worksheets, and essay writing into balanced literacy, I thought the share portion of the minilesson was kind of pointless.  In turn, I cut it out far too often.  Once I decided to incorporate the share on a consistent basis, I saw a major change in my students.  They had higher motivation toward their reading and writing, they transferred our minilessons into their reading and writing more effectively, and I as able to do a quick formative assessment of my students.  The share is such a valuable time and instrumental in creating a community of readers and writers in your classroom.

For a downloadable file of the text-to-text template and my modeling as shown in the Smartboard slide, visit my TpT store and download the freebie by clicking here.


  1. Nice job! So where do you get your mini-lesson ideas?

  2. I use the CCSS and The Continuum of Literacy Learning for ideas of skills and strategies appropriate for 8th grade students. From there I use the formula, "Readers _________ so that ___________" to make the minilesson statements.

  3. Hi Kasey! Thanks for this timely freebie! I am going to apply it to informational text articles that we are reading, all of which sort of have the common thread of the power of love in helping people overcome extreme adversity. Recently, we compared informational texts that had a common central idea and I found that I lacked a graphic organizer to support the student. We had used post-its and I liked it, but I could combine the post-its with this and have them write longer off the post-it. I love that you brainstormed ways to connect texts with the class. That extra step you take always sets you apart from many others whose blogs I read. Still trying to do guided reading in an all too short class period (35 minutes)....thanks again!

    1. Hey Laurel,

      Great to hear from you! It sounds like great things are happening in your classroom, and that you're making the best out of the short time period that you have with students! So happy that this minilesson could be combined with an idea that you already had! It's also awesome to know that you like the extra step with students during the minilesson. I always find that providing that extra scaffold helps them take more ownership of the lesson and access it independently at a higher level.


  4. Kasey,

    I love your blog! I just discovered it and have found so much wisdom and so many great ideas. I am a nine year teacher, but the first eight were in third and fourth grades and now I am in sixth. Trying to figure out how to teach ELA the way I feel is right--the way it is done in elementary school--has been challenging to implement in sixth grade. I am reading as much as I can and continually finding new ideas. Your blog is a life saver. Thanks so much for the brilliance!

    One question for you. I'm not sure if this is asking too much (it might be!!) but I was wondering if you could send me/give me an idea of your daily lesson structure/units/lesson plan template...i am just wondering how often it is writer's workshop, how often it is reader's workshop, how often and how long the guided groups are, etc. I am trying to structure my time the best I can and I think my brain works a lot like yours! (Except you have many more ideas than I do right now!)

    Thanks for any help/templates/schedules you can give. I truly appreciate it and can't wait to hear back from you :)

    Have a wonderful week.



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