In Focus: Four Blocks Literacy|
by Kathleen Carpenter, Contributing Editor
Four Blocks Literacy Framework Inspires Teachers and Students
One of the most active and enthusiastic groups here at Teachers.Net is the community of 4-Blocks literacy enthusiasts. What is "4-Blocks"? Here is how those who created the framework describe the framework:
The 4-Blocks framework was developed by teachers who believed that to be successful in teaching ALL
children to read and write, we were going to have to do it ALL! Doing it all meant incorporating on a
daily basis the different approaches to beginning reading. The four blocks --Guided Reading, Self
Selected Reading, Writing and Words--represent four different approaches to teaching children to read.
Daily instruction in all four blocks provides numerous and varied opportunities for all children to learn to
read and write. Doing all four blocks acknowledges that children do not all learn in the same way and
provides substantial instruction to support whatever learning personality a child comes with. The other big
difference between children--their different literacy levels--is accomplished by using a variety of formats to
make each block as multilevel as possible--providing additional support for children who struggle and
additional challenges for children who catch on quickly. [Cunningham, Hall, Sigmon]
Recently the following comments were posted by teachers who participate in the very active Teachers.Net 4-Blocks mailring:
I was lucky enough to attend Pat Cunningham's 'Guided Reading The 4-Blocks Way' workshop in Indianapolis. It was wonderful!!! I believe she said it was the first time for this particular workshop. She started out with an overview of the other blocks and then dealt specifically with guided reading. Even though I've been doing 4-blocks for a while, it was great to hear her overview and it reaffirmed my belief that I'm giving my children the best literacy instruction I can with 4-blocks.
I agree about the Charlotte meeting this week. Pat Cunningham helped me really understand it all. I learned sooo much Thursday. I must have "glowed" when I returned to my school on Friday because all the other teachers kept asking me how it was. There is new excitement at our school because of 4 Blocks. I'm the only teacher implementing it right now, but the others are watching closely.
I believe that the four blocks framework supports every student. It is not just one approach to teaching reading and writing but four. It allows time for students to pursue individual interests while learning. It gives the teacher and students time to interact as a group, in pairs, and one on one. It fosters creativity, meets the needs of every child at their own learning level, and provides active learning. It is not a passive walk through worksheets or any given reading series. Finally, I believe in the four blocks framework because my students are excited about reading and are writing better stories than I have seen in the previous sixteen years I have taught elementary school!
After teaching first grade for a number of years and struggling to meet the needs of all my students---- some high, some low, some who spoke English, most who spoke little, some ready for first grade, some who had never even been to kindergarten--- I finally found something that works for all of them!
From the very first week, I could see my students making progress and having fun doing it! It's a simple idea--- I've often read something that Pat [Cunningham] or Dottie [Hall] or Cheryl [Sigmon] has written and thought, "now, why didn't I think of that?" but one that works so, so well. Success is the best reason I know for wanting to continue teaching this way.
I believe very strongly in the Four Blocks model of teaching reading because it goes beyond just saying that all children can learn to read and write by providing a format that insures all children will learn to read and write. Having the Four Blocks helped me to make sure that each day I was helping my students in a way that met their needs. The result: students who were happy to be learning and a teacher who was happy to be teaching. Four Blocks empowers me as a teacher. I am able to put aside the manual and feel
confident in saying that I am an educated professional who is capable of choosing and designing activities that relate to the county Course of Study and are in fact the best practices for teaching my students.
When teaching reading, you have to remember there are many components. There is learning reading strategies (point to the words, make good guesses, sound the word out, etc.), writing, comprehension, reading for fun. In order to achieve all of this, children have to read below, at, and above their reading levels. 4-Blocks covers all of these areas. During the Self-Selected Reading block, children are reading at their own level, and for enjoyment. During Writer's Workshop, children are learning writing skills (punctuation, paragraphs, etc). During Working With Words, children are learning reading strategies and how to read words they do not know. During Guided Reading children are reading books at or below their reading level in order to gain comprehension.
I began implementing and learning 4-blocks about 5 years ago. I teach 2nd grade and one of my lowest readers went to see his former 1st grade teacher to tell her how much he loved 2nd grade. She asked him why and he responded that it was because he " wasn't dumb anymore." That one child's "testimony" has kept me moving forward ever since. Only with 4-blocks have I had the ability to reach every child regardless of learning style, ability level, or background. I am a true believer and will continue to be a cheerleader for 4-blocks as long as I can still cheer!
Four Blocks Links:
Sponsor of the 4-Blocks mailring and live chats is Apples 'n' Acorns http://www.applesnacorns.net where you can find all of the Cunningham, Hall, and Sigmon books, materials, and videos at the lowest prices possible.
Live Chats about the 4-Blocks literacy framework are a regular feature at Teachers.Net. Read transcripts of past chats at http://teachers.net/archive/4-blocksarchive.html .
Check the Teachers.Net calendar for upcoming 4-Blocks chats: http://teachers.net/chat/meetings.html or sign up for Events notices, delivered directly to you by e-mail: http://teachers.net/mailrings .
Visit the Teachers.Net 4-Blocks Center http://teachers.net/mentors/4blocks/ where you'll find links to the 4-Blocks chatboard, mailring, and helpful publications.
4-Blocks trainer/author, Cheryl Sigmon writes regular columns for Teachers.Net, based upon questions submitted by teachers, available at: http://www.teachers.net/4blocks/column.html .
A collection of lessons for use with the 4-Blocks framework is available in the Teachers.Net Lesson Bank http://teachers.net/lessons.
The 4-Blocks Goodies page is a collection of forms, notes, lessons, and other resources contributed by members of the Teachers.Net community: http://www.teachers.net/4blocks/goodies.html.
Visit the web site of 4-Blocks creators Pat Cunningham and Dottie Hall for more information about the 4-Blocks Literacy Model: http://www.wfu.edu/~cunningh/fourblocks.
Kathleen Carpenter is the professional development coordinator for Teachers.Net.