This first example shows the change one student made after a mini-lesson that included the teacher reading the great beginnings in Mem Fox books that had time, place and orientation. This student was able to improve on his story openings.
Before: When Jack came to my house, we had lots of fun.
After: One Saturday morning it was Jack's birthday. He invited me to his party.
In this next example, the student's writing benefits from a mini-lesson about using a question as an introduction to a story.
Before: In this story the student just jumps into the action of the sotry, beginning the story without an introduction. First we went between the cones. Then some people knocked down the cones...
After: In the piece written after the mini-lesson the student begins the story by engaging the reader with a question. One really hot day, I had a soccer game. Have you had a soccer game before?
In this example the lesson was simply about using the red line of the notebook paper to line up writing on the left side. The mini-lesson on the following day was about rereading and editing a piece by adding and deleting words.
Before: This example clearly shows a student whose writing habitually slides down the page.
After: Not only does the student move his writing over to the red line but also rereads and edits his paper by adding missing words and changing words to make a better choice.
Other examples of mini-lesson that are memorable are the TD's lesson comparing how to build an ice cream sundae the same way that you build a narrative story. As a student told his story to the class, he got a scoop of ice cream for each event, an M&M for each character and sprinkles for details. A little whipped cream came at the end for a good ending to the story. The memory of this mini-lesson is likely to have students licking their lips as they write.
Another memorable mini-lesson was Cathy Daniels teaching children to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their story while staying in the small moment. As the student told her story during the mini-lesson Mrs. Daniels stretched a piece of yarn until she and the student were on opposite sides of the room. Every student wanted a chance to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their story when they went into the work session of the Writers' Workshop!
Do mini-lessons make a difference? Not every mini-lesson makes a difference to every single student, but our thoughtful lessons do make a difference in the way that students write, how they think about their writing and how they reread and edit their work.