Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model|
by Cheryl M. Sigmon
I've Been Trained! (part 1)
As news of the dramatic results of 4-Blocks implementation spreads around the country, schools and districts have begun to clamor for training. Because there is no nationally certified training program connected to the model, training has been defined (in some instances ill-defined) in various and sundry ways. Some self-endorsed trainers have emerged with credentials such as: "Oh, I've read all the books about 4-Blocks." Or "I heard Pat (or Dottie or Cheryl) in Chicago last year." or "I was doing this in my classroom long before 4-Blocks came about." Currently there are even companies, usually thought reputable, sponsoring training, with trainers who lack even the basic knowledge necessary to represent the model.
Unfortunately, what often results when well-meaning people lacking proper credentials attempt to train others is the adulteration of the model and of the understanding of the philosophy that drives the model. When I have followed some of this "training," I have found teachers who are still ability grouping, teachers who are trying to juggle centers during Guided Reading Block, teachers who are overusing focused writing, teachers who think they must use a daily oral language lesson in the Writing Block, teachers who are told that you can spread out the blocks over the week rather than deliver them daily and still achieve balance,-and the list of misunderstandings goes on and on.
I remember visiting one good school where I had been asked to observe their implementation after training had been conducted by a college professor, who incidentally had never attended any seminars or training. Kids were ability grouped in Guided Reading…Centers were occurring during the time the teachers were meeting with small groups…Making Words was conducted with only the teacher manipulating letters for the class in a pocket chart at the front of the room with little regard to pattern-building. The misconceptions were numerous!
Rather than provide feedback which might have devastated these wonderful teachers who were working diligently on their implementation, I told them I was going to describe the blocks and that they should just compare my description to their implementation to see if there were any differences. I will never forget one teacher looking at me after my description of the Guided Reading Block and saying, "I'm really embarrassed that we had you come to see us, thinking that we were doing 4-Blocks, when we're not doing it at all!" I encouraged her by saying that they were working hard and were headed in the right direction. But, I couldn't help but be disturbed that someone had dared to "train" these teachers when they should not have represented themselves as a 4-Blocks trainer.
Okay, so what does constitute training? For several weeks, we'll explore some different training models. For those of you planning grants, these models might be of help in your training designs.
First, I would like to tell you what I feel constituted my own training...
Only after I felt confident that I had a thorough understanding of the model-not just of the activities that constitute the model, but of the philosophy, research and theory behind all of the elements-did I feel I should train others. Only when I could answer the questions about the nuances and when I could explain why we do what we do, did I begin to attempt formal training. Training for me was a culmination of a wide range of varied experiences over a long period of time.
- Worked in training sessions with Pat Cunningham for several years and also with Dottie Hall later in my growth with the model.
- Asked lots of questions!
- Read any and everything about the model and the aspects of the model.
- Visited 4-Blocks schools to see implementation, to talk to 4-Blocks teachers, and to absorb, process and discuss what I saw.
- Practiced 4-Blocks methods in classrooms, receiving coaching from teachers.
- Coached teachers in their implementation, learning from our trail and error and from our discussions.
- Wrote about the model for my own clarification.
Now, let's think of all of the opportunities a school has for offering varying levels of training for teachers. Training should not be thought of as attending a conference or a seminar for a day or two. Training is a growth process, gaining knowledge and enthusiasm over a period of time. Perhaps the list that follows will encourage schools to think about how to take advantage of the time that is available in the school day.
Types of Training and Professional Growth with 4-Blocks
- Visits to other schools using 4-Blocks. (Process what is seen!)
- Visits to other classes in your own school.
- Mentoring or coaching other teachers.
- Inviting another teacher or an administrator to your classroom to observe you and to offer feedback.
- Small segments of faculty meeting time.
- Teacher-led discussion groups.
- Grade-level meetings with focused topics.
- Grade-level meetings with make-and-take time.
- Mailring involvement for discussions across the country with other teachers and administrators.
- Formal training sessions.
- Personal reading of articles, books, and newsletters.
- Have a Block Party to share ideas! (An upcoming article will tell you how to put this together!)
- Invite teacher-friends to your home for a Make-and-Take or discussion session.
Have a wonderful week in your 4-Blocks classroom. See you back here next week!
Upcoming 4-Blocks training I'm conducting:
Watch for new postings! Hope to see you there!
|Indianapolis, Indiana||March 15, 2000||Contact ERG (www.ergsc.com)|
|Philadelphia, PA||March 29, 2000||Contact SDR (800-678-8908)|
|Fairfax, VA||March 30, 2000||Contact SDR|
|Long Island, NY||March 31, 2000||Contact SDR|
|Denver, CO||May 10, 2000||Contact SDR|
|St. Louis, MO||May 8, 2000||Contact SDR|
|Kansas City, MO||May 9, 2000||Contact SDR|
|Indianapolis, Indiana||June 19-20, 2000||Contact ERG (2 Day Seminar!)|
|Charleston, SC||June 29-30, 2000||Contact ERG (Upper Grades- 2 Day)|
|Dallas, TX||July 14, 2000||Contact ERG|
We're off and running with another whole cycle of training in Indiana through the State Dept. of Education. We've completed the overview and will continue with more in-depth looks at the blocks in March. I visited Centerville, GA (Houston County) last week to check on their implementation. They're working hard! Great teachers and administrators! It was wonderful to meet some more mailringers in Winston last weekend!
Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.