To maximise student learning during a mini lesson teachers must be equipped with impactful strategies, according to literacy experts Sharon and Phil Callen.
In episode 36 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy, Phil and Sharon talked about how a workshop model provides the perfect framework for high impact teaching strategies (H.I.T.S) to occur in the classroom.
H.I.T.S are 10 instructional practices which increase student learning and can have a long-term positive impact on their literacy education.
Sharon emphasised how all 10 strategies can be utilised within the mini lesson – the first of three parts within the workshop model – despite mini lessons generally only lasting between five to 10 minutes.
She explained the significance of ‘setting goals’ and ‘structuring lessons’ within a mini lesson.
“So the first one is setting goals, and the mini lesson is all about setting goals. There is a clear learning intention for the mini lesson, which is the goal. And where have we got that goal from? We’ve got that because we’ve had our eyes and ears on our readers and writers, so we usually begin by saying what we’ve noticed,” Sharon said.
“Then what we’ll often say with the learning intention is we can start it with good readers or good writers. So in this mini lesson, what good reader or good writer strategy or skill am I about to demonstrate and explain, and then what actions can they take?
“[Then] structuring the lesson, the mini lesson is highly structured in that it is planned and it’s intentional.”
The third and fourth H.I.T.S are explicit teaching and worked examples, where teachers can demonstrate and explain the strategy or skill their students are about to learn.
“Our worked examples are the read alouds, the shared readings or the enlarged text. It is the literature we use that are the best examples for our students to see how we as a reader apply those strategies,” Sharon explained.
“So you don’t have to collect or create an example to teach this. Literature is your example; the good literature, the high quality texts, the texts that you have on the go, and the fabulous informational texts that you can show how they work. They are your worked examples.”
The fifth strategy is collaborative learning, which encourages teachers to engage the class as a whole in the mini lesson.
“We are now learning together. Yes, we can go off and try some of these things with a partner or with a small group. But in this mini lesson, we are together with everybody having entry points and being able to offer their ways on how it’s working for them, how they’re using that strategy, how they’re applying that skill, what they’ve discovered as we’re doing this,” she said.
“[And] it’s not just the teacher doing that demonstrating and explaining – it’s students that are doing that with you. They are collaborating with you on this, so they’re getting to practice it and they are getting to talk that out and share that out mini lesson. It’s not a one way street, it is lots of back and forth in the mini lesson.”
With any literacy concept, repetition over the teaching year is critical. Therefore, the sixth strategy of ‘multiple exposures’ is highly relevant within the mini lesson.
“Mini lessons are the perfect place for multiple exposures because the skill or strategy that I’m demonstrating and modeling on one day, I am being exposed to that more than once in that mini lesson. Then, I’m trying it out and I’m reflecting on it, but it’s not a one-off one day mini lesson,” she said.
“That skill, those strategies are coming up again. So the next day, or the next few days, we’re still going with that. We aren’t just like ‘yes, ticked, covered’. We’re going deeper with it, into better understanding and through your conferring, you’ll be getting to know how long to keep those mini lessons that are similar going.”
Strategies number seven and eight involve more student engagement and communication through ‘questioning’ and ‘feedback’.
“Questioning is when students have the opportunity right there in the mini lesson to ask questions for clarification … and it’s opening up opportunities right there. And it’s not a one-way street – I’m also trying it, so I’ve already got questions that I can be asking which are critical for me as teacher to know who will I hold a little bit longer after this mini lesson and who isn’t yet ready to go?” she said.
The ninth H.I.T.S is metacognitive strategies, where students understand the thinking that they’re doing.
“In this time, students are already able to be doing the thinking that they need and knowing the thinking that they’e doing. They’re already employing these to check on themselves before they go off to do the independent work,” Sharon said.
Phil added: “And the teachers are modelling that thinking in a read aloud with a book they’re reading, or in a shared reading or writing. So the teachers are actually talking about their thinking and what they’re doing as they’re reading and as they’re writing. And so the children are picking up on that and then able to use that in their own reading and writing.”
Finally, differentiated teaching ensures that all students have a successful entry point into the lesson content.
“I’ve already differentiated by bringing to the students what I’ve noticed they need through my conferring, through my small group work, through listening, and through the share and reflection from the day before. All of this is informing me about what am I bringing into this mini lesson and ensuring that everybody has an entry point,” Sharon said.
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