The Clemson Virtual Professional Development Library (VPDL) for South Carolina Classroom Teachers was designed to support Professional Learning Communities (PLC). As we know, powerful learning can occur when we view teaching and student learning and analyze it together with colleagues. For this reason, suggestions for how to lead a professional development based on each module are provided. The suggestions are broken up into preparing for the session, activities to do before watching the videos with a PLC, activities to do during the viewing of the videos, and activities to do following watching the video links. These ideas are simply suggestions. We know the best ideas will come from you, the teachers in the field.

Supporting Documents:

(click on a link to download a supporting document)

Preparing for the session:

  • Read through the Architecture of Writing Workshop Page.
  • Read through the Overview of the Minilesson Page.
  • View all the clips from the minilesson module (connect, teach, active engagement, and link).
  • Read through the “Question(s) to Consider” before each of the video clips, and consider your answers before watching each clip.
  • View all the video clips. After viewing each clip, decide on your own responses, and anticipate other possible responses from colleagues. Then, review the suggested responses in the “Facilitator Notes.” These are hyperlinked to the questions. Think about additions or clarifications that would be appropriate depending on the needs of teachers. Please note that the responses given are suggestions only. In many cases, the questions and ideas from the participants or your own insights as you view the segments, will shape the most meaningful discussion relevant to the issues confronting your particular group.
  • Download and read through the minilesson PowerPoint if you will be using it in your session.
  • Download and copy the supporting documents included with the module if you will be using them in your session.

Before viewing the video clips:

  • Show the Minilesson PowerPoint. Pause throughout and discuss the bullet points on each slide with your PLC.
  • Pass out the minilesson video observation form for participants to use as they view the video.
  • Pass out the filled out and blank minilesson planning form for participants to use after they watch the video links.

During the session:

  • Watch the video clips in each segment of the minilesson structure. Request that participants watch closely and take notes on their viewing sheet as you watch.
  • After each video clip, discuss the questions that accompany each segment as a group.


Questions to consider and discuss during the session:


  • What is the purpose of the connection segment of the mini lesson?
    • The purpose of the connection segment is to situate the new learning into the context of previous minilessons. The teacher will want to activate students’ prior knowledge about the work they have been doing in writing and help them connect what they already know about writing well to the new technique they will be learning about that day.
  • What two main questions does the connection segment help answer for kids?
    • The connection portion of the minilesson should answer two questions:
      • What am I learning?
      • Why do I need to learn it?

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 learning 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.


  • What is the purpose of the teaching segment of the mini lesson?
    • The goal of the teaching segment is to show, not tell students what to do. In other types of lessons, teachers often tell students what to do and then release them to try it out in their own work immediately. The teaching segment is in the minilesson structure to ensure all students see a more knowledgeable person using the strategy first. Teachers should choose a demonstration text of some sort (the teacher’s writing, a piece of children’s literature, or a piece of student writing) to use in each of their minilessons to ensure that modeling occurs.
  • What main question does the teaching segment help answer for kids?
    • The teaching segment is the how to portion of the minilesson. Once students know what they will be learning and why they need to learn it, the teaching or demonstration portion of the minilesson answers the question:
      • How do I go about doing this?
  • This question is answered through the use of a demonstration text, and also when the teacher thinks aloud as she models the steps in the process. Thinking aloud is a critical component to this segment.


Active Engagement

  • What is the purpose of the active engagement segment of the mini lesson?
    • The goal of the active engagement segment of the minilesson is to provide students with a short practice time on the carpet. There are several ways students can engage with the new learning at this time: they may try things out in their own writing, they may help the teacher try things out in her demonstration text, or they may help another student. Permitting students to “have a go” immediately after learning a new writing technique, increases the likelihood that they will try the strategy out later in their own writing.
  • What main question does the active engagement segment help answer for kids?
    • As in the teaching segment, the active engagement answers the question:
      • How do I go about doing this?
  • However, in this portion of the minilesson the question is answered by actually trying out the strategy as opposed to seeing it modeled. Trying the strategy out within the safety of the group, ensures students receive support from both their teacher (as she listens in and scaffolds) and their peers (as they work together to execute the new strategy).



  • What is the purpose of the link segment of the mini lesson?
    • The purpose of the link is to reiterate the teaching point. It is in the minilesson to remind students what they have just learned and encourage them to add this new learning to their repertoire of writing strategies.
    • Like announcing the teaching point at the beginning of the minilesson, the link is important to both the students and the teacher. It is important to the students because it serves as a final reminder of the learning. It is important to the teacher because it helps keep her teaching focused. If a teacher cannot announce the teaching point at the onset of the lesson and reiterate it again at the end, there is a good chance she is not teaching a writing strategy or technique. If this is the case, the teacher must reexamine her plans and adjust her instruction.
    • In conclusion, a good minilesson should answer three important questions:
      • What am I learning?
      • Why am I learning it?
      • How do I do it?

After the session:

  • Examine the filled out minilesson planning form and discuss how the teacher planned for the lesson in this module.
  • If participants seem to want or need more examples of the minilesson structure, watch more video clips from the Writing Lessons module and request participants search for each component of the structure in each lesson.
  • If teachers are ready to practice their new learning, provide them with a blank minilesson planning sheet. Begin by making a plan for a minilesson. Tell the group what you have decided you want to teach students or the teaching point of the minilesson. Next, work together as a group to fill in each of the components on the planning form. You will want to model for teachers how you choose the method for modeling (your writing, children’s literature, or a piece of student writing) as well as the form active engagement will take (students will try things out in their own writing, help the teacher, or help another student) first when planning a lesson.
  • After you work together as a group to plan a minilesson, request that participants work with a partner to plan a minilesson using the planning form. As they plan, circulate the room and scaffold their work. Teachers will want to consider recent assessments and current writing objectives to determine the lesson’s teaching point before making a plan. If this is difficult for teachers, provide them with several ideas to choose from.
  • Conclude the session by allowing one or two sets of volunteers to model their minilesson for the group. The group should observe and search for each component in the architecture. The group should also provide constructive feedback to the volunteers.