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Volume 2 Number 2

Cheryl Ristow never thought her life would change so much with one click. This month's cover story tracks our own Aggie/CA from net newbie to published author!
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Alfie Kohn Article
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Jan Fisher Column
BCL Classroom by Kim Tracy
Read Across America
How to Excel as a Reading Specialist
Independent Learning
ADD and the Structured Environment
How Do I Manage a Class?
6 Traits of Writing
Indians for Mascots
Child Violence
The Unsinkable Sub
Visually Impaired and EC
Magic Slippers Poem
Becoming a Tech Savvy Administrator
The Killing of a Spirit
Bullying in Schools
Student Photo of Mars
Web News & Events
Upcoming Ed Conferences
Poll: Weirdest Thing?
Letters to the Editor
New in the Lesson Bank
Humor from the Classroom
Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
Gazette Back Issues
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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 Teacherís 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.

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.

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Teachers Guide To Building Blocks

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Classrooms That Work : They Can All Read and Write
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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. Sigmon

Upper Grades: Tackling Longer Text During Guided Reading

At the lower grades during Guided Reading Block, teachers are guided by a general "rule of thumb" for the materials they select weekly. For approximately three days of the week, students read from materials that are considered grade-level or "average" for most of the students. With text that is usually short in length, this timeframe allows for students to read, re-read and sometimes re-read again, building fluency and understanding as they repeat the text. They may read each time for a different purpose. Hopefully, by the third day, the average and higher kids are reading with fluency.

For the next two days, lower grades students read material that is considered below the level of the majority of the class---easier material. Again, they may read and re-read this text, still applying skills and strategies, and with the hopes of everyone reading fluently, or close to fluently by the last day---even the weakest readers. The grade-level and below rotations allow the widest range of materials possible to which all students, given appropriate support, can read the text and apply the skill or strategy which the teacher taught in the mini-lesson. Learning and applying the skill or strategy in the context of print is what is most important, not applying it to precise instructional level material.

Even at the lower grades, teachers often find that the 3-day/2-day guideline is not practical. They learn to trust their instincts and adjust accordingly to longer and shorter texts. No---the 4-Blocks police will not cite teachers for this!

Obviously at the upper grades, selections are often quite lengthy which can make fluctuating between grade-level and easier text and still covering a certain amount of text difficult. The most common complaint among teachers at the upper grades is that they have so much content to cover, so many selections in their literature anthologies, and so little time. The following provide solutions to address this problem:

First, teachers should consider that depth and understanding of text are more important than coverage. Unless the school or district has mandated that each selection in the book be covered, a teacher may select fewer pieces from their basals or literature books and anthologies. Perhaps only three-fourths or less of the basal can be covered, especially since some content area chapters and other materials are likely to supplement the Guided Reading offerings. Teachers must, however, be careful to choose selections among those in the literature book and their supplemental materials that allow students to read a variety of genres. Exposure to these materials during Guided Reading and during Writing Block is imperative. Students must learn to apply the skills and strategies to all types of materials.

Teachers should consider using some of the selections from the literature book for the read-aloud during Self-Selected Reading Block. This will give the students the opportunity to be exposed to some of the quality selections without the teacher having to use those selections during Guided Reading Block, making way for other materials to be substituted during Guided Reading.

Some of the selections from the literature book might also be used in the Writing Block as exemplars of style, technique, and good Standard English usage. Teachers may wish to choose a selection in its entirety to point out these exemplars as students follow in their copies of the book. Or, sections of the text might be copies onto transparencies to read and examine on the overhead projector.

Some of the selections from the literature book might be used in the Words Block to explore diction, word patterns, or rhyme. This is especially effective at the upper grades where the literature reflects this richness. From essays to poetry, there will be much to explore at the word level from which students will learn.

Teachers may give students an opportunity to help organize what will be read during the year. If a basal or anthology is used, let the students spend several days previewing the selections and rank ordering what they are most interested in. The buy-in from students having had some input into the planning has a big pay-off! Students are far more motivated to read. It is rewarding to hear students remark, "Oh, this is the story I listed first on my sheet. It looks really neat! I can't wait to read it!"

Teaches shouldn't feel that everything must be read in its entirety. Some sections of text can be used in class to apply the skills and strategies taught through mini-lessons. The remainder of the text can be assigned as homework, or sometimes it may not be necessary to complete it. Sometimes the text may be interesting enough that students will want to finish it even though it has not been assigned.

When a lengthy piece is selected, the teacher should read it thoroughly, looking for "stopping points" or natural breaks in the selection. Those will be the segments from which daily lessons are drawn-vocabulary words chosen, mini-lesson applied, purpose set, and reading practiced. The daily lessons can change according to what skills or strategies the text lends itself to, to the vocabulary in the next section, and to how students are progressing with applying the skill that day.

Considering these points should help teachers manage text more effectively and efficiently in the 4-Blocks classroom. When text takes 4 days, 5 days or beyond, it's okay. What teachers can do is continue to rotate between grade-level and easier text to support the needs of a wider range of readers. If the selection takes a week, then we'll drop to an easier selection for a couple of days before returning to grade-level. If something as lengthy as a novel is taking a class far beyond a week or two or three, students might take a "break" by interjecting a day of poetry or a grade-level magazine or newsletter format that is high interest, low readability.

A Guided Reading selection should be seen as a means to an end-not the end in itself. The greatest goal of this block is to teach students a skill or strategy that they can apply immediately and that they can transfer into their real reading. We're teaching them HOW to read. Training Opportunities:

Below are seminars (some 1 day and some 2 day ones) 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. For their services, you can simply call 843-549-2684 and speak with Cathy Bell or visit her 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 scheduled training:
Orlando, FLFebruary 13SDR
Dayton, OHMarch 1ERG (grades 4-6)
Dayton, OHMarch 2ERG (grades 1-3)
Atlanta, GAMarch 5Georgia IRA Conference
Lexington, KYMarch 6SDR
Minneapolis, MNMarch 7SDR
Indianapolis, INMarch 14-15ERG (Grades 4-6 Intro.)
Albuquerque, NMMarch 27SDR
Phoenix, AZMarch 28SDR
Houston, TXApril 3SDR
San Antonio, TXApril 4SDR
Chicago, ILApril 24SDR
Detroit, MIApril 25SDR
Anaheim, CAMay 9SDR
Ontario, CAMay 10SDR
Indianapolis, INJune 20-21ERG (Grades 1-3 Intro.)
Dayton, OHAugust 2ERG (Grades 1-3 Intro.)
Dayton, OHAugust 3ERG (Grades 1-3 Beyond the Basics)
Dayton, OHAugust 9ERG (Grades 4-6 Intro.)
Dayton, OHAugust 10ERG (Grades 4-6 Beyond the Basics)

For ERG workshops, call 843-549-2684 or go to
For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908.
Hope to see you at a workshop soon!

Personal Journal:

I'm in California right now working with a school in San Juan Bautista. Yesterday-Saturday-several schools met with me at a golf country club in the beautiful surroundings of mountain ranges where we worked all day on 4-Blocks. What a great group of teachers and administrators to give up their Saturday to learn more about 4-Blocks! Thanks to principal, Joe Hudson, and curriculum coordinator, Jeannette Taylor for hosting this visit to CA. For the next several days, I'll be working with a great group of teachers at San Juan Elementary. Tomorrow a colleague of mine, Sylvia Lollis, will be joining me in San Juan. She'll work with kindergarten teachers tomorrow while I work with upper grade teachers. Then I'm looking forward to classroom visits throughout the week to see these teachers' progress with implementation. It'll be a good week, I know. Hope your week is a good one too!


Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.