Reading Minilessons and Reading Conferences for our Youngest Readers

by Cindy Downend, Primary Faculty Member, from Lesley University

A schoolboy and his teacher reading in a primary class

One of the true benefits of being a Literacy Collaborative Trainer at Lesley University is always having my thinking nudged by my colleagues.  Over the past few weeks, we have been busy working together to plan this week’s Summer Institute on Genre Study.   I co-planned a session on reading minilessons for the primary grades and gained the following insights:

  1. Minilessons for readers in the primary grades generally focus on an important principle related to processing texts or thinking beyond and about texts.  The Interactive Read Aloud section of The Continuum of Literacy Learning by Fountas and Pinnell can help you to think about what is most appropriate for students at your grade level.  Focus on what will be most helpful to the readers in general terms – whole class minilessons are not the time to teach for oral reading behaviors.
  2. Make sure that your minilesson stays focused on a single idea for the readers to “Think about…”  Use clear language that prompts young readers to think about an important idea as they begin reading (for example: Think about the problem in the story or Think about how the character changes in the story). 
  3. Whenever possible, include a brief “have a try.”  Having a try might involve the teacher and students talking about the characteristics in one or two mentor texts.  Then the students might turn and talk with a partner to apply the “think about” to another example or their independent reading.
  4. Conferring is short and sweet with primary level students.  The conferences might happen before or after guided reading groups, as the children are transitioning in the classroom, or at other opportune times in the day. Teachers will want to ensure that they maximize instructional time for guided reading.  


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