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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model...

by Cheryl M. Sigmon

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Streamlining the Writing Block

This is our third in a series of hints for streamlining your blocks as timing has become an issue. These hints might help you get control of the block and feel more comfortable with your daily schedule. By the way, it's one of the two blocks in which I like to go beyond 30 minutes if I can.

  1. Use a timer! It can help you with pacing. When the timer goes off, it doesn't mean you have to stop automatically, but it should be a reminder to wrap it up. Reset your timer for each segment of this block.
  2. Write shorter pieces each day or "chunk" your writing into smaller segments or paragraphs over multiple days. Your entire mini-lesson should fit into a 10 minute timeframe. That means you must plan to stop earlier than that to include your Editor's Checklist and your mini-lesson focus.
  3. Don't feel that your mini-lesson must be interactive! These 10 minutes belong to YOU for modeling and direct instruction. Students will have THEIR time to write after you've finished.
  4. In your think-aloud, you don't have to elaborate on everything you do. For example, saying aloud, "I'm starting a new sentence, so I'll need to start this word with a capital letter," is usually sufficient, rather than including the entire litany of when capital letters are used in writing.
  5. Be direct, explicit, and brief in your mini-lesson. Show students a good example in the context of your real writing and explain why this makes your writing better or clearer. Keep it simple.
  6. Have students' supplies ready after your mini-lesson. Keep movement in the room to a minimum. You might have a cart alongside each cooperative table with notebooks and other writing supplies. Perhaps the student of the day (the Monday/Tuesday/Wed., etc. kid) will pass out the folders and help to sharpen pencils.
  7. If you're not at the point for formal conferences, move quickly around the room, stopping at desks of students who need to be motivated. Give as many pats on the back as possible. Just be a cheerleader!
  8. Once conferences have started, have a system in place for which kids will conference with you daily. Have them ready and waiting for their turn with you. Also, you don't have to see every student every week for these formal conferences.
  9. You can occasionally have group conferences, but try to give students some individual help during this group session. Your goal is to grow each student individually.
  10. Give students a one minute warning to wrap up their writing. If you like to give them time each day to check over their work using the Editor's Checklist, give them extra warning time.
  11. Keep the sharing time to a minimum. Most of the time during this block needs to be spent with students writing.
  12. Find quick ways for students to share daily. Sharing doesn't have to be done with a student(s) in the share chair. If you want all students to share, just set your timer for 5 minutes and tell them to turn to a table buddy and share what they've been working on that day.
  13. If sharing is done in the share chair, encourage children to discuss their writing rather than always to read it to their friends. The reading is often not audible and isn't done with fluency. Have them share something specific and focused to save time, such as sharing how they came up with their idea, what they might write about next, whether they've ever read anything like what they've written about, their favorite part, etc.
  14. Have a system in place for how students will put away their writing materials at the end of this block. Have them practice this if it hasn't been working efficiently.

Hope this helps a bit in tightening up your time frame! Have a great May as you count down the days till school's out! -----Cheryl

Check out the handouts at my website at www.cherylsigmon.com. Hope you'll find the information and handouts helpful.

Grant Support: If your school is submitting a grant, I'll be happy to submit a letter to support your training. Often, grant readers are impressed that you've secured someone with credentials to assist with training and implementation. Contact me at cmsigmon@aol.com if I can help you.

Training Opportunities:

Below are seminars that I have coming up in the future. Hope to see you at one!

Personal Journal:

Great visits lately with the folks in Grand Rapids (where principal Mark Heagle took me to see the Divinci horse in the Mejer Gardens----WOW!); at Daniel Boone District in PA with Carol Fredericks and Charlene who hosted my visit; with Marsha Tappan and my old friends at Niemann Elementary in Michigan City, IN; and with Jane Winkoff in Valparaiso, IN. Such wonderful folks seem to be involved in Four-Blocks!

Late in March I traveled to Germany again, much to the dismay of my daughters who really worried about travel at this time. Luckily, the visit was uneventful as far as the world situation, even staying in German hotels during my work with the Heidelberg District. My friend, Dianne Yoesting, made my visit additionally fun as we explored castles, the scenic highways, and even a "spargel" festival (spargel, by the way, is white asparagus, which is a specialty of the area-----Yum!!!). I visited lots of their schools where Four-Blocks has taken root. Wonderful things are happening there! On this visit, we stressed the technological connections with Four-Blocks! Exciting!

Last week I had my spring break at the beach in Charleston, SC. It was the perfect week----both weatherwise and otherwise! My mom went with my husband and me, and we celebrated her 87th birthday while there. Two of my daughters were there, my wonderful grandkids, my two sisters-in-law, my aunt, and my daughter's boyfriend. It was great to have quality time with family! We had the greatest view from our porch of the Atlantic, wonderful seafood, the most romantic full moon over the ocean in the evenings, walks every day on the beach, some rousing games of Tripoly in the evenings, Easter egg hunts in the house, and just a wonderful time! I even found a whole sand dollar on one of my walks! I'm ready for spring break again!

The Indy Block Party was a blast! It was great to see old friends and meet new ones, too. Indiana has done much for the momentum of Four-Blocks nationwide. Thanks to Claudia Wheatley; Shirley, Scott and the other energetic folks of SIEC, and the great teachers of Indiana for all that they have done! By the way, Claudia presented me with an apron and a queenly tiara during the block party! Thanks!

Hope to see many of you at IRA soon! Happy reading till next time! ----Cheryl

Cheryl Sigmon: http://www.cherylsigmon.com

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