U.S.Coast Guard AVDET 157 welcomes the opportunity during deployment to the South Pole to communicate with classrooms across the United States. Throughout the voyage, aviation personnel will correspond with schools that are interested in Operation Deep Freeze...
About Cheryl Sigmon...
Cheryl Sigmon is the author of Implementing the 4-Blocks Literacy Model (Carson-Dellosa, 1997) and the co-author with Pat Cunningham and Dottie Hall of The Teacher's Guide to the Four Blocks (Carson-Dellosa, 1999). Cheryl was a classroom teacher for a number of years. For nine years she was a language arts consultant for the SC Department of Education, where she worked in K-12 classrooms to help schools strengthen language arts programs. Since January 1999, she has been a freelance consultant, helping thousands of teachers across the United States implement the Four Blocks Model.
The 4 Blocks Center...
Teachers.Net is proud to support Pat Cunningham, Cheryl Sigmon, and their colleagues in the research and development of the 4 Blocks method. Join our community of teachers across the country working with 4 Blocks every day. Visit and contribute to the 4 Blocks and Building Blocks chatboards, and subscribe to a Four Blocks Mailring. It's like having the foremost authorities in 4 Blocks teaching right next door!
Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. SigmonActive Classroom Support: Early in the Year
Many administrators happily report that Four-Blocks allows them more time for instructional leadership---the role they had hoped to take in their schools. One reason for this is that discipline problems often decrease dramatically in Four-Blocks schools. Students are happier and better adjusted in the classroom with teachers addressing learning styles through multi-level instruction. Also, students' self-esteem is usually higher because they feel nurtured and supported at whatever level they are functioning---without being penalized for starting behind other students, for learning at a different rate, or for learning in a different way. For whatever reasons, fewer discipline problems translate into more time for administrators to spend actively supporting teachers! This is definitely cause to celebrate!
As you begin to support teachers in the classroom, there are different stages of active support that you might attempt.
Stage One of Active Support: Observe and Debrief
One of the first goals you'll have for Four-Blocks implementation will be to get teachers to plunge in and try the blocks. For this, you'll need to create a risk-taking environment in which teachers can feel comfortable as they learn and grow. During this period, you'll need to observe classrooms and encourage dialogue between teachers and yourself and between and among teachers. For teachers and administrators, this should be viewed as a period of learning alongside each other.
During this time, you'll visit classrooms for the purpose of observing---not to make any judgments about what is or isn't occurring, but merely to observe and to initiate conversation with the teacher. Observing just one block for each teacher would be a good starting point.
In the Indiana Statewide Four-Blocks training during this initial stage of support, I gave administrators and mentors "homework" sheets to encourage them to get into classrooms to have conversations with teachers. Teachers were informed that the visits to their classrooms by administrators and mentors in the early stages of implementation were not for evaluations. The visits and subsequent discussions were an opportunity for mutual professional growth and development for the administrator/mentor and for the visitors. Administrators and mentors filled out forms to guide them in their observations and conversations. (A copy of the Early Implementation Observation Guide can be found at www.cherylsigmon.com in the Handout section this month along with other back-to-school ideas.) Different parts of the form served different purposes as explained below:
Daily schedules -- The administrator copied the full day schedule of the teacher being visited. Often these schedules helped the administrators and teachers solve scheduling problems when not enough time seemed available to deliver the full Four Blocks program. Also, some problems were revealed in the schedules. For example, some teachers were trying to layer their language arts program, adding time for spelling, handwriting, and grammar in addition to the blocks. Four Blocks, of course, is a comprehensive language arts program and all of the areas are covered within the framework.
Four Blocks schedules -- The administrator recorded the time frame scheduled daily for the four blocks. In a glance, this reassured the administrator that a minimum of thirty minutes was being included for each block. If that were not the case, the administrator and teacher could use the full day schedule to solve that problem.
Interruptions -- Together, the administrator and teacher could study the pattern of interruptions in blocks that might render the instruction less effective. This is a problem that administrators should assist with.
Environment Checklist -- The environment checklist allowed the administrator to see that supportive elements were in place. If materials were lacking, this problem could be solved. Also, a section of the form allowed the administrator to sketch the layout of the room. This provided additional information about the environment and whether it was conducive to good Four Blocks instruction (cooperative grouping, comfortable reading areas, conference areas designated, etc.).
Brief Observation Checklist -- Elements that should be included in early implementation were included in checklist form to guide the administrator's observations. The system of "observed," "not observed," and "unsure" allowed both the observer and the teacher some flexibility during the early stages.
Debriefing Notes -- Conversation followed the observation allowing teachers to voice any concerns or issues about implementation. In general, the administrators and mentors were to ask questions about anything they needed clarification about in further understanding the "whys" and "hows" of Four Blocks.
Whether or not you use the Early Implementation Observation Guide form, the elements mentioned above may give you some direction about what to focus on in the early stages of a teacher's implementation.
Hope this gives those of you who are supporting Four-Blocks implementation some ideas for actively supporting classrooms at the beginning of the year. The key to success at this point is to nurture and support through healthy dialogue directly in the classroom where change is occurring. Have a great beginning of the new school year!
(Stages Two and Three of Active Classroom Support will be included as future articles.)
Hope to see you at a seminar soon!
I've just returned from Germany, continuing my work with DOD schools---this time for the teachers in Heidelberg, working with Dianne Yoesting. Dianne, thanks for the miracles you worked while I was there! I love working with DOD teachers! I think the fact that they're adventuresome enough to have gone to another country to teach means that they're really open-minded and receptive to new ideas. They have really embraced Four-Blocks. I'll be returning to Germany in October to continue my work in Kaiserslautern with Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt and the wonderful teachers there. Hope it'll be a little bit cooler when I return!
Because I've worked all summer, I'm taking a little time off now to reconnect with family. Gotta go see those grandkids!
Hope your new school year will be your best year yet! See you in a couple of weeks with a new article!