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Volume 3 Number 4

Harry & Rosemary Wong remind us, "Leaders lead and they lead by caring enough about the success of their teachers that they will roll up their sleeves and model instructional leadership."...
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman
The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
Ask the Literacy Teacher by Leigh Hall
Visual Impairments by Dave Melanson
Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber
Reflecting Upon Read Across America
Earth Day Compilation
The World in Lights
Take a Seat at the Bottom of the Class
Starting Children on Science
Tips for teachers being bullied!
Mr. Choose-A-Chart
Teaching Perseverance Through Adversity-A History Lesson
It's An Early Spring!
Memo to Staff: Our Computer System Crashed-We Have No 'Backups'-You're Not Getting Paid for a Month!
Keep Your Online Community Alive!
Curricular Science the 'Curry' way!
Geography Awareness
Principal of the Year Ray Mellberg
eBook Technology
Respect Means...
Creative Uses for Digital Cameras in the Classroom
Teaching Gayle to Read (Part 4)
Young Lawyers Ementoring Magnet Students
The Welcome Mat of a High School On-Line Community
Plato Lives...
The Asphalt Classroom
26 Teaching Tips for the Dog Days
Using Storytelling in the Classroom
Recapturing the Courage to Teach
To Leave No Child Behind
If you say you CAN'T, it means you WON'T
Something Nice a Student Did Yesterday...
When Your Child Comes Home Messy
Praise vs. Encouragement
People Don't Play...
Apple Seeds
Special Days This Month
Poem - Song of a Second April
The Lighter Side of Teaching
  • YENDOR'S Top Ten
  • Culprit Management
  • Schoolies
  • Woodhead
  • Handy Teacher Recipes
    Classroom Crafts
    Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
    "Why Do We Have Night" from the Lesson Bank
    Upcoming Ed Conferences
    Letters to the Editor
    The School Web Page: A Vehicle for Innovation
    Eighth Emerson Prizes Awarded in Boston
    Student Nanoexperiments Will Help Future Astronauts on Mars
    The 11th Annual National Institute for Early Childhood Professional
    International Conference on Computers in Education
    SESSIONS ANNOUNCED: Congress in the Classroom 2002
    Teacher Network United States Mint
    DEADLINE: Civic Education Grants
    Gazette Home Delivery:

    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.

    Learn more about Cheryl and her work at -

    More articles by Cheryl Sigmon.

    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!

    Bookmark the 4 Blocks Center.

    Best Sellers

    True Stories From 4 Blocks Classrooms

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    Teachers Guide To Building Blocks

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    Implementing the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
    by Cheryl Sigmon

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    Classrooms That Work : They Can All Read and Write
    by Patricia Cunningham

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    Making More Words : Multilevel, Hands-On Phonics and Spelling Activities
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    If you are looking for some examples of teacher created tools to use when implementing the Four Blocks framework, have a look at the
    4 Blocks Goodies Page...
    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!

    Training Opportunities:

    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 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 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:

    Columbus, OH April 9 SDR (upper grades)
    Indianapolis, In April 10 SDR (upper grades)
    Detroit, MI April 23 SDR (upper grades)
    Chicago, IL April 24 SDR (upper grades)
    San Francisco April 28 IRA Preconference Session on 4-Blocks
    Carmel, IN June 21, 2002 ERG - (beyond the basics for primary)
    Cincinnati, OH June 25, 2002 SDR
    Cleveland, OH June 26, 2002 SDR
    St. Louis, MO July 9, 2002 SDR
    Atlanta, GA July 10, 2002 SDR
    Detroit, MI July 16, 2002 SDR
    Grand Rapids, MI July 17, 2002 SDR
    Providence, RI August 5, 2002 SDR
    Portland, OR August 13, 2002 SDR
    Seattle, WA August 14, 2002 SDR
    More summer dates will soon be posted!
    Charleston, SC 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 For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908 or go to or (CA seminars).

    Hope to see you at a seminar soon!

    Personal Journal:

    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!

    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
    Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.