Smekens Education Access logo

Best-of-Smekens Writing Conference:
Writing Remix 2017



Effectively Apply Mentor Text within a Mini-Lesson

Collect student writing samples

Ruth Culham has a set of grade-specific benchmark writing samples.

Launching the Writer's Workshop

Find anchor papers tied to the lessons within Launching the Writer’s Workshop books (K-2 | 3-12).

Identify excerpts from published texts

Make intentional connections between reading and writing by showing mentor text whenever beginning a new writing genre.

Mentor text can play a powerful role in conventions/grammar mini-lessons.


Understand how the Smekens Approach Supports Any Writing Program

Smekens Education supports curriculum planning

Launching the Writer's Workshop

Smekens Education supports best-practice instruction

Download direct connections Kristina made to the TAP Rubric.

Smekens Education supports assessment of student writing




Plan a Dynamic Writing Mini-Lesson

Plan the 4 essential steps

Organize mini-lessons by trait, not by unit

Organize mini-lesson skills by their coordinating traits, not by the writing units. This makes it easier to find any lesson, regardless of the unit you are teaching.

Stay on topic with titles

Develop ideas with supporting details

Watch the complete mini-lesson video (above) and then access all the related resources (below).

After revealing the before and after “Spring Break” examples, guide students to try adding legs to undeveloped ideas. Provide small groups or pairs one of these three possible examples.


Teach a Skill within a Multi-Day Mini-Lesson Series


“Puffing up” a detail within a pre-write into a multi-sentence paragraph


“Puffing up” a pre-write detail with specific information to generate a multi-sentence paragraph


Generating a pre-write list and “puffing it up” into multi-sentence paragraphs

Day 1 – Step 1

Day 2 – Step 1

Day 3 – Step 1

Day 1 – Step 2

Day 2 – Step 2

Day 3 – Step 2

Day 1 – Step 3

Day 2 – Step 3

Day 3 – Step 3

Day 1 – Step 4

Day 2 – Step 4

Day 3 – Step 4

Move toward mastery

Adjust the purpose of the mini-lesson and the writing time across several days. This requires planning the four parts of an effective mini-lesson and the follow-up writing task.

Apply Notice & Name it, Try it, Apply it—even when teaching grammar.

Develop paragraphs

(Day 1 resources are within Session 2: Plan a Dynamic Mini-Lesson. See above.)

On Day 2, teach students to find and develop a single facet of a topic using sticky dots. See the “Spring” anchor papers.

View this Day 3 mini-lesson on “Colorful Sentences.” Mini-Lesson Resources: PDFSmartboardK-1 anchor papers

Show “where” with prepositional phrases

On Day 1, reveal Emily Dunbar’s “Preposition Song” about the kids and the box. Here are the opening lyrics.

On Day 2, students add prepositional phrases using the Spider-Leg strategy. Compare this to supersizing sentences using the Giant Magic Straw.

Another Try-It writing task could include “Prepositional Phrase Scavenger Hunt.” Use a busy scene like these images from archived Highlights magazines. (Download all six as an 11×17 PDF or click each JPEG image.)

Juggle perspectives/viewpoints

On Day 1, students complete a probable thought bubble for each “character” in a scene.

On Day 2, reveal the same situation told by four characters in Voices in the Park.

Add a tech component to the Day 2 writing task. Download 4-slide PowerPoints created by former fourth grade teacher Deb Conley of Fairview Elementary (Sherwood, OH) and her students.

Day 3 transitions from free-choice topics to content-area concepts. Challenge students to write about content-area concepts from a unique perspective.

Include definition details

For every topic-specific vocabulary word students include in their writing, they can insert an explanation or synonym. This improves the word choice and demonstrates a sense of audience.

During the mini-lessons on Day 1-2, reveal examples of 8 different types of definition details.

Build an anchor chart with students that lists the various phrases that lead into a definition detail.

By Day 3, students will likely be ready to pair their definition details with appropriate punctuation marks.


Make Lessons Visual

Connect to the concrete & familiar

Make lessons visible

Toying with Writing and Toying With Writing Too/Two detail mini-lessons for writing that all include a suggested toy or object to use as a visual trigger.