Pure Literacy

Writing Workshop Glossary Terms Series: Part 3

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I’m back with my third post, in the continuing series, about the terms frequently used Writing Workshop words with my own definitions. If you are being asked to teach in a Writing Workshop model it helps to know the lingo. 

If you are a Pure Literacy follower you know, I am a big fan of Writing Workshop and Lucy Calkins. This post is all about the structure, or in Lucy’s language, the architecture of a mini-lesson. 

In this post, you’ll not only learn the lingo but, more importantly, the 5 simple predictable steps that create the architecture of a mini-lesson.

Now, the aim of Writing Workshop is to keep the mini-lesson super brief, under 10 minutes, leaving the bulk of the remaining workshop hour for students to write. Lucy believes, and I do too, that Writing Workshop needs to be kept predictable to allow for unpredictable learning. Keeping the mini-lesson crisp and the language clear, consistent and concise is key. One way we do this is to follow a predictable structure.

As always, sharing my spoiler alert, the terms and definitions from this post are not official “researched-based” terms or definitions nor did they come from some literacy search engine database. And honestly, there are probably others who may use these words entirely differently. But these are the words I find myself using frequently during Workshop instruction based on my own experience as a teacher, coach, consultant, staff developer and author.

Structural Components of a Mini-Lesson


What: The teacher puts today’s teaching target into the context of children’s ongoing work as writers and explicitly names what they’ll be learning today.

Why: The students learn why today’s instruction is important to them as writers and how the lesson relates to their prior work. The teaching point is stated.

Teaching Point:

What: The teacher explicitly teaches students ONE concept that will make their writing better. It is important not to teach too much here and to be very explicit in the instruction. The teacher might use her own writing, an excerpt from children’s literature, or a student’s writing to teach the target concept.

Why: The teacher shows the students how writers go about doing whatever is being taught in an effort to increase students’ repertoire of skills and strategies so they might transfer these to the context of their daily writing.

Active Engagement:

What: This section of the mini-lesson provides a gradual release of responsibility by guiding students to “try out” the strategy you just demonstrated within the safety of the group. During active engagement, all students should be actively engaged by turning and talking to a writing partner or by examining their own writing.

Why: Students are given a chance to quickly practice what has just been taught or to share their observations in order to understand a kind of thinking about writing that they can try in their own work.


What: The teacher restates the teaching point and either tries to ensure that every student applies this new learning to their ongoing writing today (if applicable) or encourages children to add today’s teaching point to their repertoire of strategies.

Why: Students are reminded that today’s lesson pertains not only to today but is something they can use repeatedly, as writers, for the rest of their lives.


Now, I’m excited to share that I have a fantastic take away for you!

A mini-lesson template is an incredible resource to have on hand and this one was shared with me by none other than my talented and amazing TCRWP trainer, Lea Mercantini. With her permission, I am able to share it with you today, thank you, Lea!

Please respect Lea Mercantile as the originator and copyright holder of this work. I hope this editable template will support you in mini-lesson design, you can download the editable version HERE.

I really hope this series of little posts helps to untangle some Writing Workshop terms and that you can utilize today's take away mini-lesson template.

As always, I'd love to know your thoughts and/or comments below!

Happy Reading!

If  you've missed the first two posts in this series check them out here!

Writing Workshop Glossary Terms Part 1

Writing Workshop Glossary Terms Part 2