Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Joy of Planning: Designing Minilesson Cycles

Today I finished reading The Joy of Planning:  Designing Minilesson Cycles in Grades 3-6 by Franki Sibberson and published by Choice Literacy.  If you don't teach grades 3-6, I still think you should read this book.  As a 1st grade teacher I found Franki's thoughts to be quite applicable to planning in primary as well (and am passing it to my husband who teaches middle school next).  Most of all, I found the book to be an enjoyable read that I know I will revisit again and again across this year as I plan.

Franki reminds us, "Minilessons should empower students and help them develop strong identities as readers."  This book not only helps us find ways to empower our readers, but I found it energizing and empowering for me as an educator.  Lately discussion in education has turned to measuring, sorting, comparing, and grouping learners.  This book reminds us that looking at data is just part of the work we have as teachers.  "When we know where we need to focus our teaching and what students need, then the hard work of planning and the important work of teaching can begin," according to Franki.

In this book, Franki revisits the significance of planning in instruction.   She shares the way she plans cycles of minilesssons and the way these cycles build upon one another.  She begins the discussion by talking about the key characteristics of minilessons and their importance in our classroom communities.  Then sharing the ways she uses what she knows about the students, the curriculum and the resources that will support and scaffold the study.  The goal always remains giving young learners the tools they need to grow as readers.

The Planning Process
In the book, Franki shares her thinking through the process of planning four different lesson cycles:
  • Readers Think as They Read
  • Exploring Character   
  • Theme
  • Nonfiction Reading
She demonstrates the way she breaks each cycle into smaller lessons and scaffolds students as they learn.  She talks about changing directions, the resources she uses, and the ways she monitors student understanding.  Franki's lesson samples provide a glimpse into her planning process and the way minilessons support readers in the classroom.  

Franki is refreshingly honest about her shifts in thinking across years of teaching.  In her chapter, "Nonfiction Reading:  Rethinking Lesson Cycles We've Always Taught," she shares the changes she's made in the way she has revisioned her nonfiction minilesson cycle to better support readers.  By reconsidering what students bring to the study, new types of nonfiction, demands upon the reader in nonfiction reading, and resources now available, Franki steps us through the process of planning this cycle of instruction through a new lens. 

Franki reminds us that the work we do is important.  The planning process cannot be replaced by companies and scripts that do not know the children that live in our classrooms.  I know this book will be invaluable as I plan and revision cycles of minilessons for learners.  Thanks for reminding us of the joy, Franki.

Read Other Reviews:


  1. I've read the other reviews too. Guess I'd better put this book on my list, Cathy. Thank you for broadening the outlook of it!

  2. This book keeps popping up in my feed and in my reader. I am very pleased to hear it reaches beyond the 3-6! Guess I will be adding this one to my pile.

  3. Cathy, I was able to read this book while traveling home on Sunday from my weekend get away. Like you, I found it to be refreshingly honest. That's one of the things I love about Franki. She's always reflecting and is very thoughtful and purposeful in all she does. I especially appreciated her comment toward the end of the book where she said planning is messy. How true that is.

  4. Yet another great review of this book. I'm hoping to get a hold of it soon.