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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?

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.

4 thoughts on “Mini-Lectures Leave a comment

  1. This year in my elementary school they decided to do departmentalization for fifth grade. I took over Social Studies. I am so bummed that I missed the TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion in March. I planned to go, but something came up. I would have loved to have seen this in action. I will definitely give this a try. I plan to check out Tara’s blog.


  2. I remember an amazing English teacher from high school who would start each unit with a 40 minute lecture on the author and time period of our next novel. There would be slides and we’d be required to take notes, then take a quiz the following week using our notes. He said it would prepare us for college. It did.

    I have fond memories of those periods, sitting in the dark next to the projector, being transported to another fascinating time and place… Tara, thanks for sharing your experience using this technique. I was thinking it would be pretty time-consuming to develop even a mini-lecture. I’d like to try those vocab sandwiches. Gotta check out TR’s book…


  3. So glad to see this post, Stacey! I attended Shana’s presentation at an earlier reunion and blogged about how I thought of using it: That was a while ago, and the mini lecture has become standard practice in my social studies classroom now. It is how I introduce a new unit and then important concepts within the unit as well. The word sandwich idea is fabulous – think “market economy” for instance – how to you get a sixth grader to even begin to fathom an idea like that?! The word sandwich allows for a type of scaffolded vocabulary building that’s perfect for this type of thing. The lectures take time to prepare, though, so I found that I’m still working slowly to build a bank of these. Summer work, for sure!


  4. I love the word sandwich idea. Here’s my thinking from looking at the visual. Students list their thinking about the word before listening to the lecture on top and then fill in the actual definition on the bottom as they listen during the mini lecture. I can’t wait to try it for our current class novel. It’s packed with vocabulary that is new to my students.


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