Earlier this week my schedule was changed, so I used the unexpected time in the high school classroom I’ve been in the last several months. We are in the middle of major research projects, with the end result to be a video.
After the initial surprise of seeing me, the teacher’s and my conversation unfolded and I asked about her plan for a minilesson.
“Well,” she said, “they’ve been working really hard and asking for more time so today I didn’t plan a minilesson so they could have more time to work.”
The class began with independent reading time. As the teacher transitioned from reading time into work time, one of the students said,
“Are we going to learn anything before we work on our projects?”
This statement stopped me in my tracks. It became clear in that single sentence, that the procedures we’ve been establishing for the past ten weeks have become ingrained. It didn’t feel right to skip the minilesson for this student. It attests to the fact that rarely is the minilesson skipped (although some days it’s okay to skip it). Even more importantly, the minilesson is valuable to him. The statement wasn’t “Are you going to teach us something,” or “Are you going to talk first.” It was a statement that reflects the truth of minilessons — students learn something valuable.
It is essential that we are intentional about students learning something— one thing — each time we spend the time teaching a minilesson. This “something” should be valuable and powerful to students’ learning. From now on I’m going to keep this student’s question in mind — “Are we going to learn anything before we work” — as I plan the teaching point of each minilesson.