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Organize Your Mini-Lessons
january 21, 2009
As you create and collect writing mini-lesson ideas, consider your organization. Here’s Kristina Smekens’ favorite method of organization. She uses a hanging file box to store her writing mini-lessons. The light-weight box and handle make it easily portable. You can take the whole thing from home to school, or you can just grab a single hanging file. Because it is fully enclosed, unlike a “milk crate” container, the contents won’t be damaged by rain and snow when you cart it around.
Within the hanging file box are six large expandable hanging folders—one for each of the Six Traits (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions). Kristina groups all lessons that target a single trait into one folder. For example, within her organization folder, are dozens of lessons including ways to teach pre-writing, strong beginnings, transitions, types of endings, kinds of titles, etc. Each lesson is clipped separately and might include related anchor papers, overhead transparencies, related handouts, etc.
TIP: Build your own organization as the school year progresses. File “good” lessons as you execute them. Don’t spend a weekend trying to cram every lesson you’ve saved into this single box! Put the “best of the best” mini-lessons in here—the ones that really work.
For those of you who have already started building a file box of mini-lessons, you may encounter a typical next problem–how do you remember the lessons you have within each folder. The first year or two you are growing the file, but then the key is to utilize the lessons within it—not forget about them. So here’s a possible next step—create a table of contents for each trait folder. Make a list of every lesson you have within each trait file. Adhere the mini-lesson list to the outside of each trait file folder. This table of contents helps you remember the writing skills you already have prepared and ready to go. Sometimes we forget we even have certain materials already prepped and at our fingertips.
- Download an explanation page for mini-lesson filing.
- Download a Word Version of the Table of Contents that you can customize.
TIP: Since we tend to do the same mini-lessons year after year, you might forget whether you’ve executed it this year or not. Consider creating a method for indicating when you have executed a lesson (a box to check, a line to note the date, etc.). This might also be necessary for those who teach multiple sections/class periods of the same writing course.
If you love the idea of keeping track but would like a starter list of recommended lessons per trait, Kristina Smekens developed a tool to aid your organization. She created six oversized labels, one per trait, that would adhere to the front of each of your 6-trait file folders. The sticker serves as a table of contents of sorts. It lists the types of skills you may want to have lessons for to target that particular trait.
The idea is that as you find lessons, ideas, and strategies that work for these different writing skills, you actually check off the skill beside where it’s listed on the label. You always have a running list of skills that you possess and those that you are still seeking.
NOTE: On each of the six labels there is also room to write in additional skills and lesson ideas.