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Modeling and Mini Lessons in the Classroom

Modeling and Mini Lessons

Modeling skills for your students is one of the the most successful teacher secrets out there.

I’m not a teaching guru, nor an educational coach; I have never considered myself the perfect teacher (I don’t think this can ever be accomplished! I’m always learning and adjusting); however, I have been teaching for 19 years, so if anything, I would consider myself a seasoned teacher. I have learned through my experience what works and what does not in the English Language Arts classroom. I have had my fair share of lesson snafus and light bulb moments. Nonetheless, modeling and mini lessons shows continuous results and student progress in my classroom. 

MODELING exemplary work and skills for your students.

First, modeling cuts out major confusion and provides students with a clear skill or concept.

Have you ever assigned an essay, explained to your students they need to write four paragraphs, review the requirements and in the end, receive a pile of writing catastrophes? At this point you then asked yourself where your students went wrong- Why are their introductions two sentences long? How come they did not include parenthetical citations? Why are they making all these errors?  Grrrr…this is so frustrating for a teacher. Regardless of how many times they have been taught a concept, it needs to be modeled.

Showing students what is expected and desired for a particular assignment eliminates confusions, questions and any type of intimidation that comes with the skills, especially with writing. The first time my students write an essay, I go through each paragraph process with them, showing and modeling for the students how to write an exemplary introduction paragraph, body and conclusion. It does not bother me that it takes days; it sets my expectations. Throughout the year, when I assign new essays, I still review the requirements of the assignment and model anything I think is necessary for my students to succeed, whether it is sentence structure or a specific skill I want them to focus on in their writing.

Secondly, modeling sets students up for success. 

Think about it. If teachers model their expectations and the skills they want their students to use or accomplish, the students know what they have to do, and they are more likely to do it right the FIRST time! Instant success is how I see it! I equate it to reading the questions first before reading a passage; one knows what to look for and will more likely to answer the questions right the first time.

A great example of this is if you are assigning a project that requires a presentation. Presenting is something that many students are amateurs at because of their age level and confidence. Students have a very difficult time presenting in front of their peers. They fidget, they do not address the class, and they often read their notes rather than “present” their notes. Modeling these behaviors and skills (how to stand, make eye contact, etc.) for your students first will help them understand the specific skills and make the technique of presenting a bit easier. In addition, the idea of presenting will not be so arduous, and in the end, they will feel more successful and confident.

Yikes! I Don’t Have Enough Time to do all this!

No sweat! There are ways to take this teaching technique and slim it down to fit into your schedule. Modeling does not have take an entire class period, and actually it does not even need to take more than 10-15 minutes! This is where the mini-lesson comes into action.

My mini-lessons take no more than 15 minutes, and I teach a mini-lesson if I am introducing a new skill, behavior, and sometimes if I feel it is necessary for reviewing a skill or technique. In order for a mini-lesson to fit into 15 minutes, you cannot have an abundance of note-taking for either the teacher or student. Note taking can be very time-consuming. This is why I have all of my mini-lesson information in a PowerPoint slideshow-I can click and go! I don’t have to write anything on the board.

My mini-lesson has three parts: Connect the lesson to the unit/activity (1-2 minutes) , teach, guide and model for the students (3-5 minutes), and then independent practice (3-5 minutes). It looks like this:

Let me give you an example of how I run a mini-lesson. One of my most important mini-lessons is “Citing Text-Based Evidence”. My students have done this before from the year prior, so the skill is normally review; however, I want to make sure they to do it correctly, so I always run a quick lesson on it.

After introducing the lesson (my students were writing paragraphs in response to a short story), I introduced what it means to cite evidence and how to correctly cite the evidence, as you can see below. This PowerPoint presentation is animated, so all I had to do is click through the slides. The instructional part of citing text (MLA style) is only two slides-quick and to-the-point.

Instructional Slide

My students also had a worksheet that correlates with the slides. It included some note taking space, my model and their independent work. The worksheet is a great reference sheet for later lessons, and it is easy to refer back to when needed. Here is what the worksheets look like:

Next, I began to model how to cite a line from the text. I posed a hypothetical question, and I used an excerpt from a short story (“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury). What you cannot see from this image is the text in the slideshow is animated and highlights as I click. This model shows how I highlighted text to support that “Margot is unhappy”. Then, I lifted the lined from the actual text and properly cited the evidence for my students.

Modeling for Students
Citing Text Evidence
Evidence Slide-Teacher Model

Lastly, the students were instructed to try writing a citation independently from another passage. Again, the whole goal of a mini-lesson is for your students to mimic your actions. Below, you can see the passage I gave my students to cite their own text-based evidence. In total, 10 to 15 minutes to complete this mini-lesson.

Independent Work

After creating mini-lessons for my own classes, I wanted to start sharing these with my buyers. Why create mini-lessons from scratch, when I have already done them?!?! Below is the lesson plan for the “Citing Text-Based Evidence Mini-Lesson”. I started a whole product line for the Common Core reading literature standards. Feel free to check out some of my new mini-lessons!


I hope this teacher secret will be helpful in your classroom. Remember, modeling creates successful and confident students. Teach on, friends!


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