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...
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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. SigmonThe Perfect Guided Reading Lesson
In my upper grade seminars I've been giving a handout of a lesson developed by a teacher who truly understands what Guided Reading Block is all about. There are several impressive things about her lesson. Let me share those:
First, the text she used for the lesson is just one page! The use of short text is all too rare at upper grades where so many teachers think that the higher the grade, the longer the text must be that is used for instructional purposes. In fact, there are many upper grade teachers who feel that the text should all be novel-length. Please keep in mind that we aren't trying to raise novel readers in our classes, although that we be a great by-product of getting students hooked on reading in our Self-Selected Reading Block. We should use an occasional novel, but we should not use novels exclusively. Many teachers defend their practice of moving from novel to novel to novel by saying that students have to learn to attend to longer text and that longer text is what they'll be faced with in high school or college. The sustained reading over multiple days, however, is encouraged during Self-Selected Reading Block and should not be necessary on a regular basis in Guided Reading Block. (Although this lesson was just one page, I certainly don't mean to communicate that all Guided Reading lessons be built around this slight amount of text.)
Second, the text this teacher used was related to science content. This is particularly useful in Guided Reading because we must include a great deal of non-fiction and informational text in our instruction. One good reason to use material from content areas of science, social studies, health, and others is what research reveals about most of our assessment programs. Research reveals that at least 60% of the text on our standardized tests is non-fiction/informational. How foolish it would be to ignore this genre in our instruction! Most of us would agree that students feel far more comfortable with narrative fiction than with any type of informational text. We need to teach them more about how informational text is organized and the strategies necessary for comprehending it.
Third, this teacher planned three days of lessons around one page of text! Wow! How did she get this much mileage out of such a short amount of text? She had her students reading for totally different reasons each day. On day one, her lesson dealt with comparing and contrasting the information found in the text. She taught her minilesson and then asked students to read the text and apply what they had just learned. On day two, she taught how and why the text was organized into headings and subheading. She included predicting the kind of information in each section and how the information related from subheading to subheading. Again, students read and applied what they had learned. The third day, the teacher taught a minilesson on summarizing the information, using the organizational elements taught in the day-two lesson (heading, sub-headings). So, the three-day lesson included three different skills and much re-reading of the short text.
The fourth reason why I feel that this small lesson is such a perfect design is that I think students will begin to understand the true purpose of Guided Reading the Four-Blocks way. In my previous articles, I've mentioned numerous times the analogy of Four-Blocks Guided Reading being all about "how to fish" rather than the "fish" itself. From the parable in the Bible, instead of giving a hungry man a fish that would take care of his immediate needs, he's instead taught how to fish so that he'll have a lifelong skill that will prevent him from ever going hungry again. Our Guided Reading has a similar principle: Instead of stressing the story/text (the fish), we teach students how to read the text (how to fish) so that they'll have this skill will be life-long. I think in this lesson the students will "get it". They'll realize that they're indeed still learning to read as well as reading to learn.
Now, the true litmus test of a successful guided reading lesson should be asking this question of your students when the block comes to an end: "What did you learn today that will make you better readers?" If they answer by retelling or summarizing the text, I'm not sure you've been successful. If their responses include something about the skill or strategy, then I think you can count your guided reading lesson a great success!
Hope you'll visit me at my website www.cherylsigmon.com. for good ideas and handouts for your use (some for teachers at kindergarten, primary, and upper grades, and for administrators, too!).
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 email@example.com or call 803-799-8024.
Hope to see you at a seminar soon!
I've enjoyed meeting so many of you at seminars this summer. What commitment you've shown in giving up your valuable summer vacation days to continue your professional development! I hope you've carried away new ideas and understanding for next year. One additional thing that has pleased me about several of my seminars lately is that teachers have shared with me that they've met a new friend at the seminar with whom they've planned to swap ideas and stay in touch. I love knowing that the seminars have facilitated these new networks!
My article at Teachers.Net on The Difference Between 4-Blocks and. Pinnell/Fountas caused quite a stir! I heard from many of you, mostly expressing your gratitude for having put into print what you feel. I did receive some emails from people who did not appreciate my point of view or who wanted to express a different perspective. I never mind people taking exception to what I write; in fact, I invite people to offer a counterpoint. What I write at Teachers.Net gives me the opportunity to editorialize. Of course, any reader should expect that my opinions will be decidedly in favor of Four-Blocks since the name of the column is Sifting and Sorting Through the Four-Blocks Literacy Model and because I'm a author of several Four-Blocks books. I feel that I've been successful, though, when my column makes people think, react, respond, and/or grow. Keep writing to me!
Cathy Bell, Sue Chaplin, and the ERG consultants and I are busy planning the Charleston conference for October 5 and 6. It's going to be a good one again this year, including the infamous Block Party on Saturday night with food, fun, dancing, and music! The preliminary program looks great and will offer many new and different sessions from last year! Separate strands will offer focused sessions for Building Blocks, primary grades, upper grades and administrators/support people. Also, within those strands, there will be separate sessions for veteran and new teachers. Hope you can join us this year! Go to www.ergsc.com for information and registration.
Summer marches on---quickly! I've gotten some reading and writing done. I'm making time for family, too, including those wonderful grandchildren. Tomorrow, I'm off to visit them for a couple of days! I've missed Meg's many questions (she's 2 and Ĺ and full of questions!) and the sweet peach-fuzz of Charles' little head and his hugs for Nana.
Enjoy your summer days. Hope you'll read lots during the summer (visit my website for some good book recommendations)! See you back here soon!