One Minute Lessons

Typically, teachers say too little about too much.  We talk on and on, cover many points and then, come testing, wonder why our kids perform poorly.  The longer we talk, and the more details we cover, the more students we lose.  To correct this common problem, we suggest the One Minute Lesson.


Talk for 60 seconds, a fairly long time actually, but initially only about one topic.  In our Five Step Lesson, a core Whole Brain Teaching strategy, begin with one minute on the question; then in the next chunk, mention the question and talk at more length about the answer; in the next chunk, briefly mention the question and answer and then talk at more length about an example of the answer ... and so forth.  Keep the entire lesson about a 60-90 seconds long, but chunked.  Briefly review key points and then expand the current point.  Toward the end of a long lesson, your last chunks might extend for two minutes or more ... but include lots of spiral review.


Below, in a lesson on verbs, is a sample of this approach.  (Assume that prior to each One Minute Lesson, you’ve chosen either Mirror Words or Hands and Eyes … and after each point, initiating collaborative learning, you clap twice and say “Teach.”)

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Question:  We are going to examine a large, important question today, What are the two kinds of verbs?  Verbs are parts of speech; other parts of speech, which we will study, are nouns, prepositions and adjectives.  Understanding verbs will help you form complete sentences when you speak and write.  Verbs are so important that it’s impossible to construct even a short sentence without one!  So, I want you to make a full turn to your neighbor, use expressive gestures, and ask, “What are the two kinds of verbs?” over and over until I call you back.  (Clap, clap, “Teach!”)

Answer:  Our question was, "What are the two kinds of verbs?  Here is the answer: the two kinds of verbs are active verbs (churn your arms) and passive verbs (fold your arms).  Let me go over that again.  Active verbs (churn your arms) and passive verbs (fold your arms) are the two kinds of verbs.  You can see from my motions that active and passive verbs are very different.  So, one more time, the two kinds of verbs are active verbs (churn your arms) and passive verbs (fold your arms).  Now, when I clap twice and say “Teach!,” you clap twice and say, “Okay!”  Make a full turn and tell your neighbor, over and over, the question, what are the two kinds of verbs ... and the answer, the two kinds of verbs, active and passive.  (Clap, clap, “Teach!”)

Example 1:  The question we are answering is, "What are the two kinds of verbs?"  Our answer is, "The two kinds of verbs are active and passive."   Now, let's just talk about active verbs (churn your arms).  Here is an example.  I eat (pretend like you are feeding yourself.)  Eat is an action.  Eat is an active verb.  One more time!  I eat.  Eat is an action ... as you can see.  So, eat is an active verb.  Remember, today we are only talking about active verbs (churn your arms).  Turn to your neighbor, use my gestures, and explain that in the sentence “I eat” eat is an action; eat is one example of an active verb.  (Clap, clap, “Teach!”)

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Example 2: So, I wonder if there could be other active verbs.  We swim (make a swimming motion).  Swim is an action.  Swim must be an active verb.  We swim (make a swimming motion).  Swim is an action, so swim is an active verb.  Use my gestures and explain to your neighbor, over and over, what I said about swim being an active verb.  (Clap, clap, “Teach!”)


After several more examples, one verb at a time, students are ready to apply what they’ve learned.  First, we teach a core concept … then students undertake critical thinking.  For a lesson on verbs, we would begin with a sentence frame like the following.  (Students take turns with a neighbor, orally completing the sentence, filling in as many different verbs as possible.)

  1. She _____.

Walking around the room, check comprehension.  Next, calling students back, have a few kids, using Mirror Words, share their answers.  Then, we go on to a slightly more complex sentence frame.

  1. They _____ and _____.

After checking comprehension, soliciting student examples,  conclude with the following (a Triple Whammy).

  1. He _____, ______, and ______.
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Here is a sample of less effective lesson delivery … saying too much about too much.


Question:  We are going to ask the question today, What is a verb?  Yesterday, we asked what is a noun?  A noun, remember, is a person, place or thing.  Who remembers some examples of nouns we talked about yesterday? (take answers from the class) Now, who has an idea about what a verb might be?  (Take responses from the class … some right, some wrong … discussion follows).  Verbs, like nouns, and prepositions are parts of speech.

Verbs are very important.  Some verbs are eat, swim, run.  These are called active verbs.  Passive verbs are different.  Some passive verbs are: is, are, was, were.  So, today, we are going to ask the question, What is a verb?  Who thinks they can find some verbs in the story we just read?  (and so on)



Answer:  There are two kinds of verbs, active and passive.  Active verbs show action and passive verbs show states of being.  A state of being is like is, are, was, were, am.  Some examples of active verbs are eat, swim, even sleep.  Sleep is an action, it is something we do, an action.  Other active verbs are run, jump, hide.  If I say, “I run,” then run is an action.  So run is an active verb.  Passive verbs are very different.  If I say “They are good, kind people,” then "are" is the verb, the passive verb.  Another passive verb is "was" … “He was happy.”  "Was" is the passive verb.  Any questions?  (Nothing but blank looks).  Now, take out your worksheets and get started underlining active and passive verbs.  Tim, I said take out your worksheet, stop sucking on your shoelaces, and underline those active and passive verbs! (and so on)


The key difference between One Minute Lessons and traditional instruction is that in the former, teachers talk for a minute, staying tightly focused on one topic; in the latter, teachers talk for many minutes about many topics.