Mini-lessons are short (5-15 minute) lessons on some aspect of writing (see sample topics list below). Mini-lessons can be presented to the entire class, or to small groups of children working on a particular skill. Lessons should be responsive in nature, geared to the arising needs of your students.


Writing the title, author’s name and date on writing
Establishing workshop rules
Structure of the workshop
Managing time during the workshop
Using a writing folder
Using a writing portfolio

Where ideas come from
Using real life as inspiration
Keeping a topic/ideas list
Freewriting to find topics/ideas

Giving advice that helps
Making the most of the advice you get
Classroom rules for writing conferences

Making your characters come alive
Your main character’s problem
Story settings
Plotting your story
Dialogue: when, where, why and how to use it
Description: Using your five senses to add just the right details
Story tension: Keeping your readers hooked
Story endings
Creating your story’s mood
Genres: picture book, short story, monologue, poetry, etc.

MAKING IT BETTER (revision):
Leads: Starting with a bang
Focus: Keeping to the point
Cutting unnecessary words
Adding detail: Fleshing your story out
“Show, don’t tell”
Transitions: Getting from one scene to the next
Theme: Your story’s “message”
Creating titles
Useful editorial marks

Choosing your topic
Finding information (research how-to’s )
Strategies for note-taking
Slant: What’s your angle? Who’s your audience?
Focus: Deciding what to include/what to leave out
Using quotes
Leads: Five types to use
Genres: Essay, personal narrative, persuasive essay, article, etc.

Strategies for catching spelling mistakes
Keeping your tense consistent
Using quotation marks correctly
Punctuation guidelines

Book binding methods
Contests and magazines
Class/school anthologies

Primary Teachers: For a sample list of mini-lesson topics especially geared to primary children see Carol Avery’s book, And with a Light Touch pp.133-135.


Carol Avery, And with a Light Touch , suggests six different ways of presenting mini-lessons. An additional strategy–integral to six-trait writing assessment–is the sharing/analysis of sample papers.

  1. Direct presentation: (ex. “This is your writing folder where you will keep all your writing from now on…”)
  2. Role play: playfully act out a behavior (such as procrastination during writing time) to help children identify and focus their attention on a problem and its solution.
  3. Demonstration by a child: let a child who has mastered a particular skill (for example, the correct placement of quotation marks) assist you in teaching the class by showing how and why she used the skill.
  4. Compiling lists from the group: let small groups brainstorm lists of ideas or knowledge, then compile the lists into charts. (ex. “In your groups, list as many strategies as you can think of for getting ideas to write about.”)
  5. Teacher writing in front of the class: think out loud as you write a piece in front of the class, modeling the kinds of questions writers as themselves as they write. (ex. “Let’s see. Today I think I’ll write about the time my family went to the beach and I wandered off too far and got lost. Now where should I start?”)
  6. Telling past classroom experiences: share the writing experiences of past students, their problems and triumphs.
  7. Sharing sample papers: share/discuss/analyze/revise sample writings (by anonymous students and from literature) to learn a particular trait or skill.


From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams