We’re Going On A Mini-Lesson Hunt!

The purpose of a writing study week is to think in depth about what other writers have done in their own pieces of writing and to tease out the things we want to try and emulate in our own compositions (Hayden 2021). Today, I shared my short story (with a setting focus), Trouble At Granny’s, with my class of Year 4 writers and we read it, thought about it and discussed it.

I invited them to identify five mini-lessons which they thought I might have tried out in my story and which they wanted me to teach them more about. And if they could, I asked them to come up with a title for each one. Here’s an example:

Having read Trouble At Granny’s, two children worked together to identify mini-lesson ideas and came up with some possible titles for each one.

They came up with some great ideas and we have begun collating them. These will form the basis of our product goals (success criteria, toolkit, ingredients – whatever you like to call them).

A class poster collating the children’s ideas about what we could try out when we are writing our own short stories

Choosing which stories to study during a genre-study week can be tricky. I always like to include several of my own examples for a number of reasons.

  1. Having the writer in the room for the children to probe is a great way to deal with children’s questions about how the text was composed from a position of authentic writerly knowledge.
  2. It shows children that you have tried to write the type of text you are asking them to develop themselves.
  3. It supports my own development as a writer-teacher as scrutinising my own composition with a class of critics helps me to see potential revisions.
One of my own stories which the children read, discussed and used as a source for potential mini-lessons

What this session showed me was that rather than going through the motions of identifying the same old features time after time, perhaps children enjoy the challenge of really linking their study of texts to some of the instruction they might want to receive. After all, having an influence over the design of some mini-lessons can be a powerful way to help develop children’s perceptions of themselves as writer-teachers (in their own unique way) (Hayden 2021).

What do I mean by that? Well, two girls in my class have just set up a poetry lunchtime club for other children in the school where they want to pass on their writerly knowledge, strategies and tips. This is a classic example of children being motivated by the type of pedagogical environment in which they are being nurtured. They want to deliver to other children the type of writing instruction they receive from me in class.

There really is no reason why we can’t widen the role children play in influencing our day-to-day teaching decisions. We all benefit when we know more about what our young writers need and respond accordingly (Hayden 2021).

By Tobias Hayden

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