Teach daily mini-lessons


Here’s a radical concept: Be explicit and direct. Not all teaching needs to be interactive. – Lori Rog

Description of the principle

Feeling you can write well on your own is really important to children, and while all children need guidance, advice and individual instruction, they also need to be taught self-regulating strategies through daily mini-lessons (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021; Young et al. 2021). These lessons should focus on how to generate ideas, use planners and checklists, or what to look for when improving and revising a draft. They also need ready access to resources for editing and publishing. Self-regulating writers work independently to a large extent, freeing their teacher to conference with individuals or small groups.

What Writing For Pleasure teachers do

  • Children learn numerous strategies and techniques that they could employ independently. They are taught strategies for managing every part of the writing process and they know how to use them across all class and personal writing projects.
  • Self-regulation strategies and resources are introduced carefully and given dedicated instructional time. In mini-lessons, teachers will illustrate the benefit of a writing strategy or resource with personal reference to their own experience as a writer, before modelling and encouraging the children to use it that day if possible. The strategies and techniques are offered in the spirit of a fellow writer sharing their own writerly knowledge and their ‘tricks’.
  • Teachers make use of their working walls for ‘advertising’ and sharing self-regulation strategies taught in previous mini-lessons.

Reviewing your practice:questions to consider

  • How do you teach daily mini-lessons?
  • How do you develop and share your own writerly knowledge and strategies by being a writer-teacher?
  • How do you develop children’s writerly knowledge?
  • How do you discuss the benefits of a writing strategy or resource?
  • How do you model, encourage and then review children’s use of self-regulated development strategies to write independently?
  • How do you ensure children have access to resources that will aid them in being more self-regulating?
  • Once experienced enough, how do you encourage children to personalise the way they plan, draft, revise, edit and publish their writing and share their techniques with the rest of the class?

Examples from the classroom

Finding The Diamond Moment

‘Mr Hayden! How do writers start their stories?’

Building a writing lesson archive

We’re Going On A Writing Lesson Hunt!

Spinning A Web Of Great Story Ideas

Supporting resources

  • Our BIG BOOK Of Writing Mini-Lessons: Lessons That Teach Powerful Craft Knowledge For 3-11 Year Olds [LINK]
  • Our Grammar Mini-Lessons For 5-11 Year Olds [LINK]
  • Our Sentence-Level Instruction Mini-Book [LINK]
  • No more: ‘My pupils can’t edit!’ A whole-school approach to developing proof-readers [LINK]
  • Our Writing Development Scales And Assessment Toolkit [LINK]

Suggested further reading

  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022) Getting writing instruction right [LINK]
  • Kaufman, D., Young, R. (2022) The components of an effective writing lesson [LINK]
  • Young, R., (2021) What does a knowledge-based writing curriculum involve? [LINK]
Be reassuringly consistent

This chapter begins by exploring how teachers can, through mini-lessons, effectively deliver explicit and direct instruction within the context of a community of writers. The authors first share the theory, research, and practice which has looked into increasing children’s knowledge and understanding of writing through writing-study. This includes learning about craft, process, genre, transcriptional and technological knowledge as well as knowledge about readership, positive writerly environments, and the affective dispositions and behaviours of writers. Next, the authors focus their attention on research which has looked into effective grammar instruction including functional grammar lessons and sentence combining. The authors share their own conception of self-regulated strategy development instruction and how this relates to writing study and functional grammar teaching. Towards the end of the chapter, the authors examine the role of the writer-teacher in effective instruction, the profound link between writing goals and writing instruction, and the importance of responsive teaching and daily writing time. The chapter ends with the authors sharing examples of effective practice from exceptional teachers of Writing For Pleasure.

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How Real-World Writers works

This chapter discusses the importance of a reassuringly consistent routine for individual writing lessons. It explains how a good writing lesson will typically follow the writing workshop routine of mini-lesson, writing time and class sharing. It explains how a good mini-lesson is short and responsive to what the class’ learning needs are presently. Using research evidence, it makes clear that the most effective writing instruction includes teaching writing study and writing craft mini-lessons so as to increase children’s level of independence through self-regulation strategy development (SRSD). These lessons involve teaching techniques and strategies children can use independently to navigate the writing processes. It discusses how, for children’s knowledge and skill in grammar and punctuation use to improve, children should be taught to use it functionally through functional grammar lessons. Next, the chapter discusses how, as children become more experienced, they should be given agency to set their own process goals and deadlines. A rationale is given as to why children must have daily and sustained time for writing. Advice is given about what teachers should be doing whilst children are writing. Finally, it is explained how teachers can allow time for class sharing and how to conduct an effective ‘author’s chair’.

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