There are so many things we need to accomplish the first week of school. We need to get to the content but we also need to teach students about how our class will run and build relationships and community too. Now you may feel a bit overwhelmed at this point. Not to worry…in this article you’ll find the tools you need to do all of these things in one class period and with one mini lesson!
You will accomplish four things during your very first mini lesson of the school year:
- Students will learn the routines of your class to alleviate any anxiety they may have about being in your class and expectations you have.
- They will feel intrigued (maybe even excited) about you as a teacher and your class.
- Your class will have opportunities to begin building connections with each other and you.
- Students will be reading and writing on day one!
This first mini lesson is from my Launching Reading and Writing Workshop Unit that all my members receive when they sign up this summer. If you are interested and want all the mini lessons from this unit along with curriculum each month, and a whole lot of other perks, consider joining my membership program by clicking the members link above.
Alleviate Student Anxiety
Students need to know how your class is going to run, what is expected of them and be able to predict what will happen each day. This allows students to feel safe in your class. It alleviates any stress about what you expect. Often students worry they will get in trouble, or be embarrassed in front of their classmates. This is why you need to be crystal clear about the routines and expectations of your class from day one! The mini lesson below is titled: What is Workshop? and the goal is to provide students with the information they need to fully understand what workshop is AND practice this system. So here’s how the first mini lesson and workshop day will go:
The Mini Lesson
Building Intrigue and Excitement
- Poster: Workshop Pie Chart
- Video: Battle Royale Tutorial/Beginner’s Guide
- Slideshow: Choice Board
The choice board is where you will list all the choices students have during work time, allow students to make lists of favorite things, read alone or together, write about themselves in order to build community and engage students in the process of writing from day one
- Composition Notebook for Each Student
Ask students if they have ever played Fortnite. Then, ask them to raise their hands if they have ever played Fortnite Battle Royale. For students who have never played it (and for you) watch Battle Royale Tutorial/Beginner’s Guide.
Note: If this video is restricted at your school, no worries! Make sure you watch it on your own so you understand it before this lesson. Just, have students who are experts explain to the rest of the class what Fortnite Battle Royale is to students who may not know. Make sure that you ask these students about the purple bus, what you have to do when you land and some of the obstacles players face.
After the excitement from your hook dies down say, “Today you will learn about the system we will use in our class called workshop. I will help you understand this system by comparing it to Fortnite Battle Royale!”
Show students the Workshop Pie Chart and explain each part by comparing it to Fortnite Battle Royale.
Explain the mini lesson…
“The first part of workshop is called the mini lesson. During the mini lesson you will bring your notebooks to our meeting area. Then, I will teach a short lesson in ten minutes or less, with no interruptions and no questions. Don’t worry I will be available to answer questions and help you during work time. So if you think of a question, please write it down in your notebook!”
Students may be wondering how this is like a Fortnite Battle Royale?!?!
You can say this…
“You know how before the battle you are in that big purple bus? Well that bus ride is short, right? So is my mini lesson. During the mini lesson (or bus ride) I provide all the weapons and ammo you need to succeed as a reader and writer before you have to parachute out of the bus and into work time!”
Note: Don’t worry if you’re kids laugh at you (or roll their eyes) during this lesson! You have their attention and that is what’s important. When kids are laughing it usually means they are engaged and that is a great thing!
Explain work time…
“The next part of workshop is work time. This will last for about twenty minutes and is probably the most challenging part of workshop because you actually have to do some hard work to survive! This is like Battle Royale, I mean you are up against 100 other people and there are tons of obstacles that can throw you off and even kill you!”
“Now, reading and writing won’t kill you but these subjects can be very challenging and there are many obstacles. But don’t worry there will be many tools available to you during this challenging time. In Battle Royale you can pick up supplies to help you, in workshop your supplies will be charts, mentor texts, your classmates and me! You’ll learn more about these things in the coming days.”
Explain closure time…
“The last part of workshop is called closure time. This is an opportunity to share your writing, share about something you read, reflect on your growth or share some challenges. I know there are many people sharing their Battle Royale wins and fails on YouTube and other social media so think of closure time like that!”
Reading & Writing on Day One
It’s important to give students engaging choices so they enjoy themselves on day one of your workshop launch. Write, “Choice Board” on your whiteboard or type the choices on a slide and project it for your class to see. Explain to students that they can pick one choice and then when they get done with that they can choose another. Make sure students understand that they need to work on activities from the choice board for the entire 20 minutes! Some of the things you could include on your choice board are provided in the graphic below.
Today, circulate around the class, looking over students’ shoulders and connecting with what you see them reading or writing. Say things like, “Tell me more about that!”, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to…”, “That’s my favorite…too!”, “What’s your book about?”. Note which students choose to read and which choose to write. It’s very telling to find out which students prefer what. It’s also interesting to note the friendships that are already established and if those friends can actually work productively together. If they seem to get off task, just simply note it, warn students and if you must, separate them.
Allow students to share their top five favorite things from their lists in small groups. Have students stand up, if they too have the same favorite on their list. This is a great way to get your students connecting with each other.
I hope that you found this article and mini lesson for day one of your workshop program useful! If you end up using it, let me know in the comments how it went:) Remember to keep things simple, predictable and fun. You can never go wrong with these three things.