Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Workshop Wednesday #3-Mini Lesson

Every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer  I will be blogging about the components of math workshop,  how I implement math workshop in my 7th grade classroom, the tools and resources I use, and I will be answering any questions posed by readers.  I have previously written several posts about doing Math Workshop in middle school.

These are the previous two posts I have written in this series:

Workshop Wednesday #1-Getting Started
Workshop Wednesday #2-Opening

Today is the third post of the series; Workshop Wednesday #3-"Mini-Lesson". Two years ago I wrote this post on Math Workshop: the Mini-Lesson.  These were the notes I took from that chapter:

The first year we implemented math workshop it took me a long time to figure out how to do a good mini-lesson in under 15 minutes.  I had an epiphany while discussing this with one of our Lang Arts teachers (whom shall forever more be known as Literacy teachers next year, until they find a new or better label;)).  She told me that when they do a mini-lesson the students are not allowed to talk or ask questions at all.  The teacher just talks and explains/models her thinking for the students.

This was a definite AH HAH moment for me.  When I would do my mini-lesson I was still asking students questions and waiting for responses.  You all know how sometimes it's <crickets> and the clock keeps ticking.  I think it was February when I came to this whole realization and I started setting a timer for myself on my iPhone when I started my mini-lesson.  When that timer rang I was usually pretty close to the end of my mini-lesson.  It was eye opening to say the least.

For anyone who talks too much in class I highly recommend setting a timer for yourself.  It didn't take me long to see the correlation between asking for student responses during the mini-lesson and taking too much time.  Once I started talking through my thinking on the SMARTBoard while students followed along copying down the examples or notes I gave, my mini-lessons started to fall into the 10-15 min time zone.

That's the number one thing I will say about workshop, less time on the mini-lesson and much more time on students working together on problem solving in collaborative groups.  I have to say that students are very attentive during the mini-lesson portion.  I think it holds their interest because they know they're going to see good worked examples that will help them move forward during work time.

My mini-lessons are almost always on SMARTBoard slides.  This is an easy way for me to project the work and then I can make PDFs of the mini lessons and upload them to Google classroom.  That way any students who were absent or just want to look over the work again from the mini lesson have access to it whenever they want.  I also have a whiteboard that I sometimes use to share anchor charts. I have plans to use many more anchor charts this coming school year.

I'm going to be honest and tell you that our mini-lessons are almost always a problem or section out of our Carnegie Learning text lesson. I guess they now call our consumable texts Worktexts.  Another new fancy term, I can hardly keep up when things get renamed in education.  It typically takes me a year to start using the correct terminology and by then it gets changed or renamed again.  LOL  

I am very much a fan of Carnegie Learning after using it with my students for the past three years.  I think it blends perfectly with our workshop model of delivery.  We are not about searching out a ton of extra things when Carnegie has done the work for us to give us a well aligned challenging curriculum.

This is an example of a mini-lesson I did at the end of the year with my Math 7 Honors students.  It is actually an 8th grade Geometry lesson.  I am still unable to access any of my SMARTBoard files GRRRR, but I had this uploaded to Google Classroom at the end of the year and can at least show you an example.

This was not a typical mini-lesson with just one lesson and then work time for the remainder of the period.  This was actually three separate mini-lessons done in the same class period.  We often found that this was necessary for many of our geometry lessons in Carnegie.  Sometimes (not too often) Carnegie lessons took two days so in that case we would carefully plan what the mini-lesson was for each day of the lesson.

I did the first mini-lesson and then students had work time.  After a bit of work time I did the next mini-lesson.  I would always move on to the next mini-lesson portion when the first group was done with work time problems, so they weren't sitting around doing nothing.  

For a typical lesson where you see 8.1 Work Time on the third slide, that is where the mini-lesson would end and the rest of class would be work time, sharing and reflection, and if there was time at the end students could work on the assignment.

Mini-Lesson Part I
Mini-Lesson Part I continued

Mini-Lesson Part I (and you can see some Work Time questions)

Mini-Lesson Part II

Mini-Lesson Part III

I decided to go back over comments from my end of the year student survey I gave to give you a real view of what my students thought (good and bad).  I tried to pull out the comments that related to the mini-lesson because I asked them a general questions about math workshop.  

These are just a fraction of the comments for two of the questions I asked. I copied and pasted these right from the survey only correcting spelling errors.  I also added any comments that included me in the questions below as I was the one teaching the mini-lessons.

What are your opinions of math workshop?
  • I don't really like the mini lesson, but the rest is alright.
  • I like having the mini lesson so I get a feel for the lesson. 
  • I really am not a fan of the mini lesson, but everything else is fine.
  • I liked the mini lessons, and Work time was also good this year because we were able to have good discussion if there were different answers.
  • I like how we had a mini lesson because it got a feel of what we were doing that day.
  • I like how you do the mini lesson then we go on our own and do it, and then you come back and see how we are doing.
  • Mini lessons are needed at the start of each module to show what we are learning about 
  • I like the mini lesson and work time but the sharing and reflecting isn't the best (I don't like it).
  • I think it gives us time to process the lesson.
  • I kind of like to work on math alone because other people have different answers and then you have to tell them why yours is right, or maybe wrong, but yeah I like the mini lessons, they are helpful.
  • Important to listen 
  • I think the mini lesson really helps me understand the lesson and concepts we're learning about. 
  • I think the Mini Lesson is helpful to understand what we're supposed to be doing.
  • The mini lesson is kind of boring
  • Good, because it gives us more information about what we are learning.
  • Mini Lesson is really helpful because I will know what is ahead of me as I am working in the book.
  • The opener is fine the mini lesson explains what we are doing Work time is fun because you are in your group and reflecting helped me explain my answers  
  • I like the math workshop because its easier to get the content.
  • I really enjoyed the math workshop. The mini lesson really helped me learn more and understand what we are doing that day in class.
  • I thought it was very nice and I got a lot out of it. They made math more helpful to me.
  • Mini lesson I'm glad we have it because I would be lost without it
  • I like the mini lessons, and work time with groups
  • It is a good method of learning.
  • Mini lesson is helpful
  • I don't like openers, but I love Mini lessons. 
  • It takes to long and I don't like the Mini Lesson 
  • The mini lesson really gets me thinking and it helps me understand about what we are doing.
  • I think the math workshop is good. Starting with the mini lesson then leading into worktime.
  • Less time working in the book and I don't like how for the Mini Lesson the teacher just does the work for you. 
  • We do mini lessons and you show us how to do it correctly and slow.
  • The lessons are easy to understand, and if you don't get something Mrs. Nackel will help you if you need it
  • I like how Mrs. Nackel teaches the mini lesson really well so that I can understand it.
  • You do mini lessons we get a good understanding about what is expected of us.
  • We first learn what we are doing and then go on to do it with our groups.
  • Mrs Nackel explained everything very well

What helped you learn in math class this year?
  • The mini lessons and working with other people
  • The mini lessons then work time
  • What helped me learn this year was the mini lessons. I knew what I was doing after them and it helped me get through the lesson a lot quicker and more efficiently.
  • The mini lessons.
  • mini lessons that weren't that long
  • The mini lessons.
  • Good teaching 
  • teaching
  • The teacher  
  • Ms. Nackel
  • mrs nackel
  • The Mini-Lessons
  • the way it was taught 
  • Mini lessons helped a lot because they showed us how to solve the problems and it makes it much easier.
  • Mrs. Nackel's thorough explanations.
  • The way you explained everything clearly, and giving us the mini lesson to help us understand what we will be doing.
  • The Teacher
  • How you did the mini lesson it helps me understand more
  • Well Mrs. Nackel really explained the problems well which helped me succeed 
  • Mrs. Nackel and Mrs.Hies because they helped me understand many things.
  • When Mrs. Nackel explains things really well
  • Marking the text helped me understand what we were learning
  • The way you teach.
  • Mrs. Nackel because she explained the content really well and was also encouraging.
  • You teaching us unlike my elementary school.
  • The mini lesson and homework
  • The strong material, and how it was explained
  • Mrs.Nackel, because she had taught the lesson so well 
  • Mrs. Nackel
  • Mrs. Nackel
  • I think that the the mini lessons were very helpful this year because you could go back and look at it if you were stuck.
  • Mrs. Nackel
  • Having the mini lessons at the beginning of the lesson so I can understand it.
  • The mini-lesson showing me what to do in work time helped me learn a little better this year.
  • Knowing exactly what I had to do and being able to ask any questions 
  • Mini-lessons.
  • Ms. Nackel 

Be sure to stop back next Wednesday when I will be discussing the Work Time of Math Workshop.


  1. Could you help me figure out how to get workshop/stations into my classroom for differentiating instruction. I love your ideas and really like that you use slides to post so students who are gone can get them as well.
    Did you make all your own slides or do you use from somewhere else.
    How do I use the series or information i have into this format?

    1. I make all my slides for mini lesson on SMARTBoard Notebook software. If you don't have that I would suggest making a google presentation. If you use google they would be super easy to share with students.


Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Feel free to email me at with any questions you have.