Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model|
by Cheryl M. Sigmon
A Faculty Meeting Experiment:
Modeling SSR Block
Here's an idea for one of your school's remaining faculty meetings this year. It'll provide an opportunity to add some levity to the traditional hum-drum-I-don't-want-to-be-here faculty meeting! This activity is also intended to foster a comfort level with the basic format of the Self-Selected Reading Block and to emphasize the purpose and importance of the components of this portion of the balanced approach to literacy.
The activity will simulate the SSR Block, and so it would be good to review the basics. There are three components: 1) the teacher read-loud time that motivates students to read; 2) time for students to read and for the teacher to conference with several students; and 3) sharing time where students talk about books that they've been reading. These components occur daily with the ultimate purpose of helping students to acquire a habit of reading. This block supports the research that basically says that the students who read most are also the students who read best.
If you're an administrator, take time at a faculty meeting to simulate this block. If you're a teacher, suggest to your administrator that this would be an excellent way to support growth in the Four-Blocks while exposing teachers to many new book titles. After all, one of the greatest challenges faced by teachers during the Self-Selected Reading Block is to make the match between children and books, finding just the right book for just the right child. Much easier said than done!
First, it would be most helpful to hold this meeting in the library. You'll need lots of good books that can be secured from a number of different sources. You might ask your helpful librarian to choose books representing various genres and put a number of books on each table where the faculty members will be seated. Or, you might ask some of your experienced Four-Blocks teachers who already have baskets filled with good books to share some of the baskets they use in their classrooms. Place the baskets of books on each table for the reading pleasure of the faculty. You might also want to include newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and other "real" reading materials at the tables, just as we do in the classroom.
Whoever plays the role of the teacher during this activity should choose a good book for the read-aloud. There are wonderful children's books that can easily catch the attention of a room full of adults and can evoke emotions ranging from laughter (try Ted Arnold's Parts) to tears (try Faithful Elephants and be sure to have tissues available!). Other favorites might be Animal Troubleshooters (kind of gross but definitely informational and entertaining from Watts Library Division of Grolier Publishing), a few chapters from Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo or from Million Dollar Shot by Gutman. One of my newest favorites is Once Upon a Fairy Tale published by the Starbright Foundation, presenting short stories based on different perspectives of fairy tales as written by Hollywood stars.
As you begin your read-aloud, read as you do in the classroom with enthusiasm (practice beforehand!). If the book has pictures, be sure to share those as you go. Adults love the pictures just as kids do! Be sure that you resist any temptation to teach during the read-aloud. We don't use the SSR read-aloud time in the classroom either for direct instruction---merely a time to motivate students and to invite them to read following our read-aloud time.
After the read-aloud, it's time for the faculty members to read the materials that have been placed at their tables. Tell them how much time is allotted for them to read (10-20 minutes perhaps). You might even want to set a timer so that they'll be aware of the time allotted. Before beginning the reading session, you might want to establish a few brief rules---no talking and everyone must be reading (no averaging grades, knitting, or lesson planning!). Tell them, too, that they should read with the intent of sharing something from their book after they've read (This helps to focus students---and teachers, too!).
You may want to dispense with the conference time since it would be a little difficult to orchestrate. But, the person who assumes the responsibility of the teacher should be reading along with the faculty.
After the allotted time has passed, encourage the faculty members to share in a couple of different ways. First you might ask them to share briefly at their tables something that they found interesting in their books. Tell them that you're setting the timer for 8 minutes (or whatever time is appropriate) and that everyone has about one minute in the group to share. Then, after the small group sharing, you might ask two or three people to share aloud with the whole group something that was particularly interesting from their books. You could have this sharing done on a volunteer basis, or you might draw names of several teachers randomly to share.
As this activity ends, remind the faculty that they need to keep up with content and titles of books that the school has to offer so that they can always find just the right book for the right student.
Hopefully, the faculty will enjoy this activity and will grow in their knowledge of Four-Blocks because they're practicing what they must preach in the classroom! Happy reading at your next faculty meeting!
If you're writing a grant at this time, I'll be happy to write a letter of support for your grant to promise good training, either by me or by one of the wonderful folks who works along with me through ERG. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803-799-8024.
Below are seminars that I have coming up in the future. Please know that I have a small group of really excellent folks who work along with me, too. We do site-based work in schools and districts at your request. They did not come from a train-the-trainer program. Their expertise with 4-Blocks evolved over many years of training, teaching and support. For their services, you can simply call 843-539-1213, fax 843-539-1214 or visit ERG's website at www.ergsc.com. We offer various types of staff development: classroom demonstrations, on-site presentations, classroom observations and feedback, and exploring 4-Blocks in more depth, among other offerings.
My seminar presentations:
||SDR (upper grades)
||SDR (upper grades)
||SDR (upper grades)
||SDR (upper grades)
||IRA Preconference Session on 4-Blocks
||June 21, 2002
||ERG - (beyond the basics for primary)
||June 25, 2002
||June 26, 2002
|St. Louis, MO
||July 9, 2002
||July 10, 2002
||July 16, 2002
|Grand Rapids, MI
||July 17, 2002
||August 5, 2002
||August 13, 2002
||August 14, 2002
|More summer dates will soon be posted!
||October 5-6, 2002
||ERG - (Second annual Balanced Literacy---Block Style ~ Conference and Block Party! Register now!)
For ERG workshops on 4-Blocks and Building Blocks, call 843-539-1213 or go to www.ergsc.com. For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908 or go to www.SDResources.org or www.ceea.org (CA seminars).
Hope to see you at a seminar soon!
After planning for a website for nearly three years, my new site has finally debuted! I hope you'll visit it and find some interesting and fun things there. And, yes, of course, there are grandbaby pictures there, too! I can't help myself! I plan to have a monthly newsletter to alert you to new additions, handouts, activities, and information. Check it out at www.cherylsigmon.com!
Wow! 4-Blocks is really hot in the Southwest! Seminars in Albuquerque and Phoenix were well attended, and the participants showed great enthusiasm. I enjoyed visiting some schools while there. Deloris Vigil-Frank's school in Albuquerque is doing great things with the parent connection to support 4-Blocks, and I must say I've never seen such a great job as they were doing with organizing books to support 4-Blocks teachers! Mary Lewis' school in Phoenix had brave teachers demonstrate the blocks while a group of us observed for 2 days. I hope our debriefing sessions were valuable for faculty members. They're working on a careful plan of implementation and support.
I enjoyed meeting some of you at the NC Reading Conference and at seminars in Toledo, Indianapolis and Dayton! Right now I'm in Wooster, OH, working with the teachers of Parkview Elementary. Such nice folks and good teachers here! Thanks to George Dean for hosting my visit.
On a personal note, I want you to know that I survived 9 days of keeping my two grandchildren! My granddaughter, Meg, is 2 years old, and my grandson, Charles, is 3 months---so it was no easy feat! I loved every minute of it, though. There's no feeling in the world that compares to having a 2 year old spontaneously look up at you and say, "I love you so much, Nana!" You can imagine that we read so many good books together during those 9 days.
Two sad notes: My 12 year old cocker spaniel, Mazie, died a week ago. If you have a pet or ever have had a pet, you know they become family. I miss her. Also, if any of you have any experience with nystagmus, I would love to hear from you. It has, unfortunately, entered our lives.
Spring in the South is so beautiful. It's been 85 degrees lately. I love the renewal of spirit that spring brings! Hope you'll enjoy your spring, too! See you back here real soon!
More about Cheryl Sigmon, Balanced Literacy and the Four Blocks Model can be found on Cheryl's site at http://www.cherylsigmon.com
Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.