I’ve been meaning to share my notes from “Methods That Matter: Using Mini-Lectures, Interactive Video Alouds, and Centers to Raise the Level of Engagement in Social Studies” ever since I attended the TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion in March.  Life got in the way of me putting them together in a meaningful way (i.e., so you wouldn’t have to read my chicken scratch because I still take notes the old-fashioned way).  It might be early May, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t useable.  In fact, the information is especially relevant now that most folks are finished with state tests.  Therefore, if you were unable to teach social studies on a regular basis due to the time crunch you felt from mandated test preparation, then here are the highlights from the session I attended, which was led by Shana Frazin:

  • Mini-lectures are an engaging, fun way to orally deliver content to students in 10 – 15 minutes.  They are planned, instructional, and interactive.
    • With regard to planning, as a teacher, you have to do research well to plan a powerful mini-lecture.  One has to synthesize and angle the content in a way that will support students’ comprehension.
  • Vocabulary can be taught using “word sandwiches” (see photo below).  By introducing word sandwiches prior to the start of the mini-lecture, students are being set up for what to listen for during the lecture (e.g., who, why, and how).
  • You can structure mini-lectures using boxes and bullets or any other non-fiction text structure.
  • During a mini-lecture, you have students partnered up and doing turn and talks as a way to process the content you are delivering.  You can also have students stop and jot, stop and think, listen to you think aloud, etc.  (Use what you know about interactive read aloud to help you give a dynamic mini-lecture.)

Shana gave a mini-lecture on westward expansion during the session. These were word sandwiches she put up before she began her mini-lecture. (Photo used with permission of Shana Frazin.)

A mini-lecture makes content accessible for a class who are unable to read the textbooks (e.g., due to reading level).  In addition, since many textbooks are dry, a mini-lecture presents content in a more engaging way since it synthesizes it into a time frame that makes it easy to sit through.  Students are more engaged in mini-lectures since they’re interactive and much shorter than a period-long lecture.  Due to the shorter time frame, mini-lectures make it possible for students to go off independently, or in partnerships, to read trade books, do online research, or examine primary sources, do a variety of other activities that will support the social studies lessons you’re teaching.

Have you taught social studies with mini-lectures?  If not, do you think you’ll give it a try?