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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model...

by Cheryl M. Sigmon

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This article was printed from Teachers.Net Gazette,
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A "To Do" List for the New School Year

I guess it's time to put aside my incomplete summer "to do" list and start thinking about a "to do" list for the new school year. Here are some things for you to think about as you get ready for another great year with Four-Blocks:

  1. Prepare study packets for all of your students. (These merely require a zip-top sandwich bag per student, filled with things like 1/3 pack of sticky notes or VIP strips, a couple of Wikki Stix, a 3X5" transparent overlay made of bright colored book cover material or strips of plastic pocket chart highlighter, window envelop, etc.---all the things we'll use to focus on and mark words, passages, and descriptions that we study.)
  2. Check your Making Words letters to see how many of your teacher's set and the students' sets need to be replaced.
  3. Make your record keeping system so it'll be ready to document baseline data on your students. Here are two suggestions:
    • Purchase a wooden cutting board from your dollar store. Tape index cards (one per student in your class) overlapping from top to bottom on the cutting surface, using plain tape with the bottom edges of each note card showing. Write the names of each student on the bottom edges so that all names can be read without flipping the cards. Also, purchase a 3-ring binder and plastic sheet protectors with tabs on them. Write students' names on each tab. Arrange the names in alphabetical order. Make copies of your Self-Selected Reading and your Writing conference forms for each student. Punch holes in the forms so that they'll fit in the binder. Place both forms directly behind each student's name. The plastic sheet protector will house the anecdotal index cards as they are completed, along with any documentation about students' growth, IRI results, tests, etc. In the binder, you'll have a great profile on each student and will be able to thumb through to get a profile of your class' performance.


    • Use a file folder for each student. Purchase 5 folders in each of five different colors. Write students' names on the folder tabs. On the right-hand inside of the each folder, tape a row of overlapping index cards (at least one per marking period). On the right-hand inside of the folders, staple the appropriate number of SSR and Writing conference forms. When you fill out conference forms for SSR, grab all of one color each day to organize which students you'll meet with on that day.
  4. Review your curriculum standards to be sure that you know what is to be covered this year. You might copy the Table of Contents in your basal texts and make notes in the margins about which selections lend themselves well to teaching the standards objectives. You might want to use a form provided in an earlier article (See Article # 82 - http://www.teachers.net/gazette/NOV02/sigmon.html) to assign a block to ensure that each of your standards will be taught directly and explicitly.
  5. Prepare an expandable file this year to file away some of your good writing mini-lessons. That'll make it possible to return to some of your writing samples later in the year to get more mileage from them or to help you remember these successful lessons in the following year. Some expandable folders will allow you to file your samples according to the type of lesson taught, such as: Editor's Checklist Items, Parts of Speech, Punctuation, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Persuasive Writing, Informational Writing, and Revision Lessons. If you're using lined transparencies that model the type of paper your students are using, you might wish to slip that transparency daily into a plastic sheet protector. Once the lesson is complete, file the sheet protector, rather than the transparency, in your expandable folder since the sheet protectors are so inexpensive.
  6. If you don't have a Share Chair or Author's Chair for Self-Selected Reading and Writing Blocks, now's the time to make one. Go to your local all-purpose store and buy one of the inexpensive hard plastic lawn chairs on sale. Fancy it up with some glitter paint, ribbons, stickers, permanent marker designs, etc. When students share this year, give them a permanent ink pin that they can use to autograph the chair. Plan to raffle the chair in your class at the end of next year.
  7. Decide on your Editor's Checklist items for this year. Be sure that they are just the basics for writing that you will expect to hold your students accountable to in the rough draft writing daily. (Carson-Dellosa offers a set of mini-lesson books for Four-Blocks classrooms with suggested lists.) Get your poster or chart ready but don't plan to post the items at the beginning of school! They are added gradually as they're taught.
  8. Decide how you'll disseminate the books during Self-Selected Reading this year. When you can get into your classroom, you might want to set up the first round of baskets. Be sure to consider that each basket will need varying levels of readability, different genres, authors, and topics, and that you'll need different formats of text represented (books, magazines, pamphlets, etc.)
  9. There's still time to gather new, FREE materials for your SSR reading baskets. Look for great brochures and pamphlets in these places: grocery stories, doctors' and dentists' offices, pet stores, hotel lobbies, Chamber of Commerce, veterinarians' offices, take-out menus at all restaurants, and car dealerships. Clip articles from your newspaper to keep in a file for your read-alouds or to place in a scrapbook or box in your reading center.
  10. Be on the look-out for items that will help you to establish prior knowledge about the various topics you'll be exploring this year. Look for art, artifacts, pictures from the Internet, and video clips that will make the topics more concrete in your students' minds.
  11. Decide on manageable writing folders for your students and prepare the class set of those. Younger students might best use spiral notebooks, while older students might need 3-ring binders or pocket folders. Purchase mailing labels to put on the covers so that students can personalize their folders.
  12. Prepare response journals for each student. Suggestion: Purchase the well-made, inexpensive marble composition books with the sewn binding. Have them cut in half widthwise. (Copy shops like Kinko's will cut them for a fee. Or, you might take them to Home Depot or Lowe's and ask if they'll help out a teacher! Also, high school machine shops have a saw that will do the trick.) Put a sticky mailing label on the front and another one on the back. Let each student use one for two subjects, writing front to back for one subject and back to front for another! Students will love this neat little response journal!
  13. Make a chart that will allow you to assign students the reading format that will best support them during Guided Reading Block.
  14. Story Bits/Souvenirs can be made and stored for the special texts you'll share with students this year. If you haven't tried this before, you'll love this addition to your class and the connection it will provide with your parents and reading. (See Articles #33 - teachers.net/4blocks/article33.html and #34 - teachers.net/4blocks/article34.html here at Teachers.net for directions and ideas to make and use these.)
  15. Make and arrange your packets of Making Words lessons. If you haven't done this, try to find a teacher or a group of teachers at your grade level to sit and make packets with you that can be shared. If you used the Month by Month Phonics books or the Making Words series of books, you can copy the lesson on the outside of a small clasp envelope and put all the note cards for the lesson inside.
  16. Look for the ideal books for activities like Rounding Up the Rhymes that require reviewing books, songs, rhymes, etc.
  17. Last but not least, make a commitment as to when you'll have all four blocks up and running this year. It's easy to delay implementation, especially if this is your first year trying the framework. Remember three things, though: #1) You'll have gaps in your curriculum until you have all four blocks going; #2) Some students will be missing out on their primary way of learning to reading until you have all of the blocks going; and #3) You're only delaying the implementation of a great instructional plan that will make classroom life so much easier for YOU! (On my website at www.cherylsigmon.com in the Handouts section, I'll have a form that can be used by teachers and administrators to set goals for the coming year.)

Okay! These are some reminders of things you can put together now to make the beginning of school so much smoother for you and your students. I know that you have many other things to add to your list. Hopefully with this head start, you'll have your best year ever!


(Hope you'll visit my website for support and new ideas: www.cherylsigmon.com.)

Grant Support: If your school is submitting a grant, I'll be happy to submit a letter to support your training. Often, grant readers are impressed that you've secured someone with credentials to assist with training and implementation. Contact me at cmsigmon@aol.com if I can help you. Congratulations to the schools who've written to say that you've been awarded your grants! I'm looking forward to working with you!

Training Opportunities:

Below are seminars that I have coming up in the near future. Hope to see you at one!

Cheryl Sigmon: http://www.cherylsigmon.com

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