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.
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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. SigmonStreamlining Your Self-Selected Reading Block
As teachers viewed the beginning of a new semester, many expressed that they needed to work on streamlining their blocks. Many teachers said that the pacing of some blocks had gotten increasingly difficult to control. Two articles ago, I started a series offering tips for streamlining each block. The first article was a look at Guided Reading Block. This time we'll see how we can trim time from the Self-Selected Reading Block. Here are a few tips:
Keep the read-aloud simple. Don't cram in too much during this time if you're uncomfortable with juggling more than one text during the ten minutes set aside for the read-aloud in SSR. There are many ways that more experienced Four-Blocks teachers might branch out and try different things during the read aloud. For example, some experienced teachers at lower grades read several different texts or excerpts from texts of varying readability levels in an attempt to validate for low, average, and high achieving children that it's okay to read on those levels. However, if you're attempting to streamline SSR Block, you might just stick with one piece of text or an interesting excerpt from one text. Over a period of time, you'll cover different genres and varying readability levels, so there's no need to be stressed if you need to do it gradually.
Remember that it doesn't hurt to leave your students wanting more of the book that you're reading during your read-aloud time. Many teachers hesitate to end the read-aloud if students are begging for more. We love finding a book that interests kids this much! However, if you read too long, you're likely to have to eliminate some of the time set aside for students to read, and we don't want to do that. The greatest amount of time in SSR should be spent with students engaged in their independent reading.
Don't move into your "teaching mode" during the read-aloud! It's hard for us not to want to stop and teach mini-lessons along the way---punctuation, extended vocabulary lessons, etc. Know that there are many other opportunities during Four-Blocks for you to teach direct, explicit lessons---but, this isn't one of those times! Think about this time in the same context you would think about reading a bedtime story to your own children. Do it for enjoyment! Modeling quick thinking strategies such as making a connection as you begin, stopping to identify a word quickly, or prompting a quick prediction here and there are all acceptable.
Organize for a smooth transition from the read-aloud time to the time that students will be reading independently. Find a way to get books in their hands as quickly as possible. For example, books may come to the students in baskets delivered by the table leaders or students of the day. Or, students might shop earlier in the morning for books that are placed in their own private container (large cereal boxes cut in half, Tupperware storage containers, canvas book bags, etc.) and which will be quickly accessible after the read-aloud. (See Self-Selected Reading the Four-Blocks Way, Cunningham, Hall, Gambrell, Carson-Dellosa, 2002 for additional ideas.)
Review procedures with students periodically so that they'll remember the desired behaviors and protocol. When the block isn't running smoothly---too much noise, too much movement, students aren't coming to the conference prepared, etc.---then, stop and review the rules and procedures with them.
Use a timer to help with pacing during this block. Digital timers that count down and which are clearly visible to the students are wonderful reminders, especially for students who have no concept of time. (I probably wouldn't use the digital timer during the teacher read-aloud, though, as it seems to distract students and makes it appear as though you're racing the clock to get through.)
For teachers who are attempting to conference with more than 25 children weekly, you may need to have a rotation system that goes beyond five days. If you're only able to devote 2 minutes to a conference, you and the children are likely to end up feeling like they're on an assembly line.
Don't get in to the habit of having children read to you during the conference each time. Teach children how to talk about books and to extend their love of a book beyond the printed pages. Have them read to you only periodically when you feel it will give you some valuable information.
Sharing needs to be a brief amount of time in this block. It doesn't have to be done formally with the children coming to sit in the share chair. It can be something as simple as, "Boys and girls, I'm going to set the timer for 5 minutes. I want you to turn to your table buddy and tell your buddy what you've been reading about."
Teach your students how to talk about their books during the sharing time rather than encouraging them to read their books to the class. Often the sharing times where students read their books aloud aren't very successful because students don't tend to read with loud and enthusiastic voices. Let this be a time that they can practice their speaking skills rather than their oral reading skills. You might also want to give them some focus for their sharing that keeps them for wandering too much---"Tell us your favorite part of the book so far." "Show us your favorite picture and tell us why you liked it." "Tell us whether you like the book and why or why not." "Tell your friends why you think they might like this book or why they wouldn't."
Remember that first and foremost during this block, enjoyment of reading and establishing reading habits among our students are the goals we want to accomplish. I hope that these tips and reminders will help you to streamline your Self-Selected Block so that you can continue to deliver a balanced program daily to your students.
Four-Blocks Grants: If you're writing a grant to implement and support Four-Blocks in your school or district, I'll be happy to furnish a letter of support for your training. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are seminars that I have coming up in the future. The new summer schedule will soon be posted. Hope to see you at one!
The Four-Blocks Leadership Conference was the absolute best ever this year! One of my favorite sessions was Jim Cunningham's presentation on what it takes beyond Four-Blocks to raise standardized test scores. Great information! This conference is usually held the weekend of MLK, Jr.'s birthday. You might want to go ahead and mark your calendar!
January was a busy month of travel. I visited again with my friends at Rincon Elementary in GA where my sister-in-law is a wonderful Building Blocks teacher. Thanks to Marian, Karen Durkin, and to the upper grade teachers at Rincon Elementary for a great visit! Then, I traveled on to Phoenix where I spent over a week with my friends in the Issac and Glendale districts. Wow! I saw some great lessons modeled by teachers there! One teacher did a perfect guided reading lesson using math text! Over the weekend in Phoenix, I traveled with Wanda Holbrook and her husband to Sedona and Flagstaff. I even had my picture taken with a snowman! Linda Washington, Dr. Carol Erickson, and Mary Lewis were great hosts and were doing such a wonderful job of supporting Four-Blocks in their respective districts.
After Leadership, I went straight to St. Louis where Gina Seibee greeted me at the airport and hosted my visit to the district. Thanks for the great dinners, Gina (even the "Welcome to Missouri" incident is a fond memory!)! Gina has been a long time supporter of Four-Blocks. I also worked at Holman School in Ferguson-Florissant District with the upper grade teachers, along with Jan Wallace and Judy Bick who are doing good things! By the way, the snow was beautiful in St. Louis, but way too cold for me! One morning was -25 degrees with the wind chill! Brrrrrrrr!
I'm looking forward to February, mainly because of the Buffett concert on February 5th in Columbia! This Parrothead will be there with my cheeseburger earrings and other paraphernalia!