Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model|
by Cheryl M. Sigmon
Why Are You Doing That?
Last week it happened again. A teacher came up to me during a seminar break to tell me how she didn't have time to get in all that needs to be included in her Guided Reading Block. "I want them to write in a journal during this time," she explained. "Why do you need to have them do that?" I asked. She thought for a minute, smiled, and said, "I guess I've just always had them do that. Maybe there's not a good reason for them to do that every day." She had figured it out!
The truth is that I've had a run lately on questions from teachers that have required me to ask, "Why are you doing that?" More often than not, the teachers pause and reflect briefly before figuring out that it's because it's something they've always done and they keep perpetuating it without ensuring that it's a most effective and efficient use of their time and of students' time. Here are some of the specific questions I've been asked that might just help you as your planning your instruction:
"I want to include DOL before my model writing lesson in the Writing Block. I think it's important to include, so how can I manage it and not take too long?"
Why are you doing that? There's not anything you can accomplish during DOL (Daily Oral Language) that you can't accomplish even more effectively in your own writing minilesson. The whole purpose of including the model lesson at the beginning of the Writing Blocks is to give you the opportunity to teach a direct, explicit lesson in a context that makes sense to students. Most teachers I've worked with agree that there appears to be very little transfer from the isolated editing that occurs with DOL into students' real writing. But, when we show students the application of editing daily as a part of our Editor's Checklist and we tell them and show them why it's important in our real writing, it has an impact and gets transferred.
"I'm having my students write a daily summary of what they've read in Guided Reading Block. How can I make time to get that done?"
First, why are you doing that daily? Learning to summarize is a valuable skill that we'll teach and that we'll reinforce throughout the year many times. Does it need daily attention, though? Taking the time to do it daily may not be an efficient use of your time and may be overemphasizing it's importance as a comprehension skill. Guided Reading Block is already jam-packed with other essential elements that should be included daily. Also, there are numerous others skills and strategies that we must teach and have students apply. Look closely at why you feel that this practice is necessary, and if it's not totally necessary daily, let go of this expectation."
"We always review all the questions at the end of the chapter before we start reading, and yet that's making me go too long on the pre-reading segment of Guided Reading Block. Help!"
Why do you feel the need to do that? You're the one who determines what the focus of the lesson will be, how much of the text will be read that day, which points need to be made, etc. Sometimes reviewing all the questions (especially knowing that not all of the questions publishers have chosen to include are important ones!) isn't necessary. In fact, with most lessons, reviewing all the questions isn't appropriate. Keeping your lessons more narrowly focused, rather than the "scatter-gun approach" many of us have been taking, will help students to understand more clearly what they're learning and applying that day. It may also make transfer to other "real" reading more likely.
Just because we've always done something doesn't mean that we should continue. Yet, old habits definitely die hard! Let's make a pact, though, that we'll question ourselves more often during our planning and our instruction to be sure that we do things for a good, valid reason. The school day is so short relative to all that we need to accomplish. Four Blocks is all about being effective and efficient. Let's use our precious time to the good of the students we serve!
Note: There are some new things posted at my website www.cherylsigmon.com. Hope you'll visit me there for good ideas and handouts for your use (some for primary and upper grades teachers, and this month 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803-799-8024.
Below are seminars 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. They did not come from a train-the-trainer program. Their expertise with 4-Blocks evolved over many years of training, teaching and support. For their services, you can simply call 843-539-1213, fax 843-539-1214 or visit ERG's website at www.ergsc.com. 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 seminar presentations:
||June 21, 2002
||ERG - (beyond the basics for primary)
||June 25, 2002
||June 26, 2002
|St. Louis, MO
||July 10, 2002
||July 16, 2002
|Grand Rapids, MI
||July 17, 2002
||August 5, 2002
||August 13, 2002
||August 14, 2002
||October 5-6, 2002
||ERG - (Second annual Balanced Literacy---Block Style~Conference and Block Party! Registration is limited! Register now!)
For ERG workshops on 4-Blocks and Building Blocks, call 843-539-1213 or go to www.ergsc.com. For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908 or go to www.SDResources.org or www.ceea.org (CA seminars).
Hope to see you at a seminar soon!
I enjoyed seeing many of you in San Francisco for the International Reading Association's conference. The preconference institute was a lot of fun! Sylvia Ford, Eve Hayes and I conducted the administrators' strand of Dottie's institute. We had some super folks in our session---lots of enthusiasm was shared! It was wonderful to see mailringers and 4-Block-fairthfuls---DeLinda, Vanessa, Cece, Deb, Joe, Amanda, Eileen, and of course Pat and Dottie, among many others! Even my friend, Peggy, from Germany was there! By the way, thanks to Grolier Publishing (now a division of Scholastic), Wright Group, Learning Resources, and Teaching Resource Center for the wonderful doorprizes you donated for our administrators' strand. You were very generous!
Congratulations to mailringer, Deb Smith, for her newly published book of minilessons for second grade! The book didn't quite make it out for IRA, unfortunately, but should be out by now. There's also a new first grade book of minilessons (Cunningham, Hall, and Boger)! These should be very helpful to teachers. (Published by Carson-Dellosa, as usual!)
On a personal note…
I'm in the hospital right now with my youngest daughter, Caroline. We've been here for several days for extensive testing after a scary episode. We have hopes of getting her home today and maybe taking a few lazy days on the beach in Charleston. Please keep her in your prayers.
Also, my baby grandson was christened this month. What a thrill to be there with the family! He's normally such a good baby, but when the organ struck the first chord, it scared him and he began to bellow! With some Devine intervention, though, he found his little thumb by the end of the hymn and fell fast asleep. In fact, he slept soundly throughout his entire christening and baptism! He was so precious in his long white gown and bare feet! Meg was precious, too, as she went upfront to watch her baby brother's service.
I did one of my favorite things this week---visited classrooms! McComb, OH has been doing Four Blocks for a while, and I visited their classes and met with teachers to help them refine their implementation. What a great faculty! We gathered at the principal's home on Wednesday night and had such a good time! I think this faculty is always looking for an excuse for a party, and I was glad to furnish this week's excuse! Can't wait for this group to join us in Charleston! I guess all the gals there will be eager to "draw straws" to see who gets to sit with Heath, huh? Thanks to Karen Damschroder and principal, Theresa Kozarec, for your hospitality in coordinating my visit and making me feel so welcomed!
I'll bet there are a few of you counting down the days till school ends. Hope you're getting ready for lots of good summertime reading. See you back here soon!
More about Cheryl Sigmon, Balanced Literacy and the Four Blocks Model can be found on Cheryl's site at http://www.cherylsigmon.com
Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.