Writing Workshop Architecture Assessment Mentor Texts and Charts Sample Lessons
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Many teachers worry about what to teach each day in their writing minilessons. Though the content of our lessons is important, the method we use to present these lessons is even more important. After all, if students are not paying attention to our teaching, then what we teach doesn’t matter. When considering the importance of content versus the process of a minilesson Calkins (2003) writes, “I’m convinced, however, that it’s even more important for teachers to learn the methods for leading efficient, effective minilessons.” After observing master writing teachers at work, Calkins and her colleagues have determined that efficient and effective minilessons last about ten minutes and utilize a predictable structure or architecture (Calkins, 1994; Anderson, 2000).

See Sample Lessons by Component for video clips of each component of the architecture of a minilesson.

Architecture of a Minilesson



Though the connection portion of the minilesson is short (about one minute) it serves some important purposes. The goal of the connection is to situate or connect the new learning into the context of previous lessons for the students. The teacher will often begin by reminding students of the previous day’s work. She might say something like, “Yesterday we worked on _________. Remember how we _____________?” After this reminder, the teacher might tell the students a little story explaining why she feels they need to try out the new writing technique she plans on teaching. Explaining why students might want to try out a specific writing technique is crucial. As teachers we often assume compliance; if we tell students to do something, we assume they will do it. Explaining why writers use a certain strategy provides students with a reason to try out what we are teaching, and actually increases the likelihood they will attempt this new technique in their own work.

The connection should end with an announcement of the teaching point. “So today I am going to teach you how to _____________.” The announcement of the teaching point is critical for the teacher and the students. It is important for the teacher to know the one strategy or technique she is going to teach and be able to sum up it up in a simple sentence. Doing so ensures that there is just one teaching point and helps her to avoid over teaching. Announcing the teaching point is important for students because it alerts them to what they will be learning next.



The teaching segment is the demonstration portion of the lesson and it lasts about four to five minutes. During this time, the teacher models how to implement the one specific writing technique or strategy that she announced during the connection phase. In essence, a minilesson is like a procedural text. The teacher begins by telling what she is going to teach and then shows how to do it. As the teacher demonstrates, she thinks aloud by listing out the steps taken during the process. The teacher will model using some form of writing. There are three primary forms of demonstration texts teachers may use during the mini lesson:

  • The teacher’s own writing
  • A piece of children’s literature
  • A piece of student writing


Active Engagement

The active engagement portion is the guided practice piece of the lesson and it lasts about four to five minutes. In this short time, the teacher asks students to give the new writing technique a try within the safety of the group. Students often practice the new learning with their long-term writing partners. There are three primary ways teachers might organize the active engagement portion of the minilesson:

  • Ask the students try things out in their own writing.
  • Ask the students to help the teacher.
  • Ask the students help another student.



The minilesson ends with a link. The link reiterates the teaching point and links it to students’ ongoing work. Teachers often end by saying, “So today and every day when you’re ___________, you can _______________.” Teachers may also ask students to notify them if they implement the new writing strategy that day saying something like, “If you try out this new strategy today let me know. I’d like to hear about it.” Teachers will often end by reminding students how today’s lesson fits into the grand scheme of things. “You have learned lots of ways to ________. This is another strategy you might think about trying out in your writing.” The link is short, lasting only about one minute, but important.