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Volume 3 Number 3

Harry & Rosemary Wong ask, "Is it possible that a school district would have no openings at a time of worldwide teacher shortages? But more importantly, why were there no openings in the Medford School District?"...
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman
The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
Around the Block by Cheryl Ristow
Ask the Literacy Teacher by Leigh Hall
Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber
Every Day is Read Across America Day!
Music is...
Ten Pennies and Ten Dimes
Swinging on the Education Pendulum
Literature Circles
Internet Based Interaction in the Classroom
How to Create A Bad Acceptable Use Policy Document (And Have It Survive)!
Safety on College Campuses
The Montessori Mystery
Playing Baseball in the Classroom - A Flexible, Adaptable Game to Motivate Your Students
Whither Not Social Studies!
When Bright Kids Say, "I'm Bored!"
Book Review: Comprehension Instruction
Teacher Social Groups
Retaining Principals
Today I Learned
Things You NEVER Thought You'd Have to Say…or Hear
What Was Your Most Unforgettable Show and Tell?
How Do You Deal With Middle School Students' Apathy?
Why Reading Scores Across the Nation Have Declined
Apple Seeds
Special Days This Month
Poem - Searching for the Gold
The Lighter Side of Teaching
  • YENDOR'S Top Ten
  • A Challenging Foot Feat
  • Schoolies
  • Woodhead
  • Handy Teacher Recipes
    Classroom Crafts
    Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
    Featured Lesson from the Lesson Bank
  • Here Comes the Train
  • Upcoming Ed Conferences
    Letters to the Editor
    Chatboard Poll, What changes has your district made in an effort to raise test scores?
    Action Against Hunger Project
    Explore Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest
    Third Annual Music Education Survey Gets Underway
    Gazette Home Delivery:

    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.

    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.

    Best Sellers

    True Stories From 4 Blocks Classrooms

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    Teachers Guide To Building Blocks

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    Implementing the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
    by Cheryl Sigmon

    $16.99 from
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    Classrooms That Work : They Can All Read and Write
    by Patricia Cunningham

    $20.00 from
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    Making More Words : Multilevel, Hands-On Phonics and Spelling Activities
    by Patricia M. Cunningham, Dorothy P. Hall

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    If you are looking for some examples of teacher created tools to use when implementing the Four Blocks framework, have a look at the
    4 Blocks Goodies Page...

    Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
    by Cheryl M. Sigmon
    Challenging Four Blocks

    Over the years, I've been involved in sharing Four Blocks with thousands of people around the country. On numerous occasions, I've had people apologetically make inquiries and offer challenges to the theories and philosophies that are central to Four Blocks. Sometimes these people are surprised when I express how much I appreciate and respect those who offer a challenge. In fact, I think more people should question the directions they choose. Here are the reasons why:

    Far too many people accept new methods with little thought behind their decision. They quickly rush into new programs that promise great results. Almost like the impulse or compulsive buying of a shopping channel, these "shoppers" are always on the lookout for something new and different, often with little regard to the consequences. Many of these teachers and administrators "shop" often because they don't have a philosophy about teaching and learning that guides the decisions they make. They may too easily base their decisions on the data they're shown---and we all know there's data to support whatever someone wants to sell.

    Some of these same folks "buy in" because they are constantly trying something new, never satisfied with what they're currently doing. Sometimes change is hard to make, but sometimes just the opposite is true. I remember overhearing my own child once in a discussion with a friend about how one of her teachers had apparently attended another workshop because the teacher was out one day and then returned the next day only to start changing everything around in the class. Yes, we should be willing to change and to learn about new things. But, we should study what's new and be selective and careful in our decision to employ those new ideas.

    Some educators are led blindly into new programs because they are desperate in their attempts to be accountable to legislators, administrators, parents, community, and to themselves. We must not be too eager. We need to study, read, research, and ask questions.

    Regrettably, there are far too many teachers and administrators who only care to learn the "how's" of Four Blocks and care little if at all about the "why's" of the framework. In other words, they only want to know "how to do it" in their classrooms. These are the people who don't challenge anything about the framework because they're not thinking much about theories, philosophies, and what meshes and what doesn't with what they believe. In short, they have no questions. My feeling is that the best Four Blocks teachers develop a thorough understanding of the theories and research on which the framework is based. When they have that knowledge, they are far more likely to make wise choices when they put their own "personality" in the blocks, when they integrate the blocks with other curriculum, and when they substitute their own activities beyond those that are suggested in the Four Blocks books. To get that knowledge, they ask more questions.

    Lacking a thorough understanding may account for the phenomenon of the "Five Blocks Model" that occasionally surfaces in schools---folks who think they're cleverly adding what they consider to be a missing element: ability grouped guided reading. Where they may feel that they're clever, others regard this synthesis as ignorance about the philosophy. (I also realize that there are schools that mesh the two because of a lack of trust, using the fifth block as a safety net of sorts.) Why would you spend so much time and effort to deliver multi-level instruction that doesn't require that students be labeled and ability grouped, only to throw them into ability groups for one block? They usually haven't thought about the approaches having dichotomous philosophies. They need to take the time to understand. They need to ask questions.

    Too many teachers don't feel empowered to formulate and express their own views. Sadly, this may evolve from a long history in many schools and districts where teachers are expected to "roll over and obey" whatever the program or method de jour might be that's passed down. So often teachers remark to me that they're made to implement programs, made to use certain workbooks or basals, forced to teach spelling programs that they disagree with philosophically, mandated to include things in their day that they don't have time for and don't value. The list goes on and on. Why? Why do so many educators quietly accept those things that, as professionals, they know are not in the best interest of children?

    We are professionals and should feel an obligation to question those things that challenge our beliefs. We should remain open-minded to new ideas, and should make well-informed decisions. We must find our voices and be heard loud and clear, realizing that the choices we make have far-reaching impact upon many lives. Educators, although not paid on the same scale as medical doctors, make life and death decisions in the classroom every day. We help to determine whether or not our students will become productive citizens and, often, help determine the quality of their lives. In short, we have an obligation to challenge and to ask questions! Start asking!

    Training Opportunities:

    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 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 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:

    Toledo, OH March 12 SDR
    Indianapolis, IN March 14 ERG (Beyond the Basics for Lower Grades)
    Dayton, OH March 15 ERG (Beyond the Basics for Lower Grades)
    Columbus, OH April 9 SDR (upper grades)
    Indianapolis, In April 10 SDR (upper grades)
    Detroit, MI April 23 SDR (upper grades)
    Chicago, IL April 24 SDR (upper grades)
    San Francisco April 28 IRA Preconference Session on 4-Blocks
    Summer schedule will soon be posted!
    Charleston, SC October 5-6, 2002 ERG - (Second annual Balanced Literacy---Block Style ~ Conference and Block Party! Register now!)

    For ERG workshops on 4-Blocks and Building Blocks, call 843-539-1213 or go to For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908 or go to or (CA seminars).

    Hope to see you at a seminar soon!

    Personal Journal:

    Such great people along my travels! After my seminars in Ontario and Long Beach, I had a wonderful return visit to Riverside (got to stay at the Mission Inn again! Wow!). Thanks to Luz Mendez and to John Allen for their wonderful hospitality!

    Seminar company, SDR, had their first engagement in Iowa at both Davenport and DesMoines. There were a number of enthusiastic pioneers in attendance! In Spencer, IN, I got to see good things happening in their school! Had a great night out with mailringer faithful Leah Taylor and Sharon while there. Thanks to Pam Hardy too for getting me back to Indy for my flight!

    This week brings me to the Grand Rapids area to work for 3 days with a group of schools in Kentwood. I thoroughly enjoyed watching model lessons in classrooms and debriefing with groups of teachers in addition to our late evening sessions in grade levels. Thanks to my host Nancy Broadwell (super Guided Reading lesson at 5th grade!!!) and to Kari Anama (a very persuasive person, I must add!) and to the other super principals who hosted my visit!

    Coming up in March, I'm keeping my grandchildren for a whole week while my daughter and son-in-law have a ski-country getaway. (I'm beginning to wonder if I'm too old to keep up with a two-year old and a two-month old. We'll find out!) I'm truly looking forward to it. How many books can I read to them in a week? I'm going to have a ball!

    A couple of new book recommendations: At upper grades, I'm a new fan of Gutman's Million Dollar Shot. What an exciting chapter book for intermediate children---rich voice, suspense, and good style. You'll enjoy it! (Thanks to the Riverside teacher who recommended it to me!) At lower grades, check out Phillipe in Monet's Garden---clever rhymes (Rounding Up the Rhymes perhaps?) and an introduction to the great Monet and his impressionist art. Hope you'll enjoy these!

    Cheryl Sigmon is a regular contributor to Teachers.Net.