5 Mini Lessons to Launch Both Reading and Writing Workshop


What does launching reading workshop look like? What about launching writing workshop? The honest answer is that it looks different in each classroom because each teacher values different things, wants to run his/her classroom in distinct ways and has unique student populations.

But, if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty launching is about accomplishing two things: teaching routines and getting students excited to do the work of reading and writing. It’s that simple. In this article you’ll find five mini lesson topics that you can use to accomplish both of these goals.

Mini Lesson 1

What is Workshop?

Students need to know what workshop is. They need to know that this is how you plan to run your day to day.

So what is workshop then?

choices for the first day of workshop.jpg

It’s a system of teaching that breaks your class period up into three parts: mini lesson, work time and closure. This very engaging mini lesson is one you can use the first day of your launch unit and compares the workshop system to Fortnite Battle Royale!

During your launch unit it’s important to give students engaging choices during work time in the form of a choice board like the one below. This way students aren’t overwhelmed with lack of direction during work time and they get excited about the opportunity to write/read about things they care about.

Mini Lesson #2

Noise Levels

We must teach students the behavior we expect during workshop. One of the most important aspects of behavior that should be explicitly taught is noise levels. Use the video below to teach student different noise levels. Sign up to join the teachwriting.org community and receive access to our freebie library to download a free noise level poster too!

Mini Lesson #3

Writing Notebooks

The notebook is critical to have in a workshop program. Students can use it to brainstorm ideas, create drafts, list, doodle, draw, track books they’ve read or want to read, take notes about mini lessons, tape charts in, set goals and more.


In order to increase excitement about the notebook have students decorate and personalize their covers. You could provide students with packing labels, scissors and pens and have them decorate their notebooks with words/pictures that demonstrate their interests and goals for growth this school year.

Afterward, you’ll definitely want to teach students how you want the notebooks to be utilized.

There are many ways to go about organizing and utilizing a workshop notebook. Some teachers like to have students create a table of contents. Some like to use sticky notes or tabs to separate different parts of the notebook. I like to keep it simple…class notes in the front and everything else in the back. You might also want to check out this post: Interactive Writing Notebooks Creating a Space Saving Reference Section.

The most important point to remember here: you must teach students how you want them to organize their notebooks and actually utilize them for the purposes you plan at the beginning of the year. Too often we make plans to do this or that and by mid year we realize we haven’t utilized the notebook as much as we wanted. This happens to the best of us. We just need to build a new habit in ourselves and our students about the importance of handwriting in the thinking and learning process. This article is a great one to share with students about the power of handwriting: 9 Incredible Ways Writing By Hand Benefits Our Minds and Bodies.

Mini Lesson #4

Writing Stamina

Stamina is the ability to do an activity for an extended amount of time without getting tired or wanting to give up. Students need to learn that if they aren’t used to writing or reading much then their stamina is probably quite low, and that is okay and perfectly normal!

There are many examples of activities that can be quite frustrating when you first begin: learning how to play guitar, jogging, yoga and knitting are just a few activities that actually include physical pain when getting started! Writing can also by physically painful, if writing by hand!

The best way to help students build reading and writing stamina is to teach students what stamina is and then set class and personal goals using a timer. Have “stamina days” where students try to surpass class and personal goals by reading and writing for a particular amount of time. This can be a lot of fun for students because many are motivated by numbers and reaching goals. You might also want to check this post form more ways to help students develop stamina: Get Started with Writing Warm-Ups.

Mini Lesson #5

Personalized Note-Taking

Taking notes is something students are expected to do frequently in school but are rarely ever taught how to do. This is not right! We need to be discussing how students can stop copying what they see their teacher writing or what they hear their teacher say and personalize their notes. Students are more likely to retain the information when they can personalize it and write the information in their own words and in their own way. But how do you do this?

The answer is modeling.

When teaching a workshop mini lesson most of what the teacher does is model. The teacher models with mentor texts, by writing in front of students or with a student sample.

Below you’ll find models of notes for two types of note taking strategies (Cornell and Sketch Notes) based on the exact same subject: what is workshop? You can take notes in other forms (Outline, Mind Map etc.) too, with any subject!


Wrap Up

Launching workshop can be quite simple. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. Students just need to know about the three parts of workshop, your expectations of them, especially during work time, how you want them to use their notebooks and anything else is bonus, like building stamina and personalized note taking.

Related Posts

Your First Mini Lesson of the School Year

Best Places to Find Mini Lessons Online

10 Reasons Secondary Teachers Should Try Workshop

Generating Writing Ideas: Lists & Conversations

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About the Author


Amanda Werner is a full time middle school English teacher in the Bay Area. She has been teaching for eleven years and still feels like a novice. Every year is a unique and exciting challenge to inspire a new group of students to become avid readers and writers. Amanda reads educational literature voraciously and writes about the teaching of reading and writing on her website amandawritenow.com. Amanda received her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Humanities at Western Washington University. In her free time, Amanda loves being outdoors with her husband and daughter.