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Volume 3 Number 11

A new museum dedicated to exploring the role of visual art in children's literature from around the world will open in Amherst, Massachusetts in November 2002...
A Class Size of 500 Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Suggestions For Motivation Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Stress Relief for Teachers Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber
Benefits of Homework Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Dealing with the Back Stabbers and Happy Haters The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
Sites For Grades 4 to 8 The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
Thinking About Your Curriculum 4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
November Postcard from Planet Esme - News from the world of children's books by Esmé Codell
November Articles
November Regular Features
November Informational Items
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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.

Learn more about Cheryl and her work at -

More articles by Cheryl Sigmon.

The 4 Blocks Center...
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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
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Classrooms That Work : They Can All Read and Write
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Making More Words : Multilevel, Hands-On Phonics and Spelling Activities
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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. Sigmon
Thinking About Your Curriculum

As you're thinking about lesson plans throughout the year, let me remind you about one critical part of your planning. Even though Four-Blocks will tell you HOW to teach, it won't tell you WHAT to teach. I've written articles about this before. I have sometimes visited classrooms where 4-Blocks appears to be going so smoothly, only to discover that the WHAT is missing totally! Here are some quick reminders about what goes where:

If you're using a basal literature series, it fits perfectly in the Guided Reading Block and will help to guide decisions about which skills and strategies lend themselves well to the texts you select. The publishers, however, will often introduce skills and strategies that aren't appropriate for the Guided Reading Block but which you might consider for another block as a good connection. For example, a publisher suggests that you teach simple and compound subjects. This you would teach during the Writing Block, not in Guided Reading. In general, all that we'll concentrate on during Guided Reading will be comprehension skills and strategies---plain and simple.

Everything that will grow students as writers will plug in to the Writing Block. That includes grammar, mechanics/punctuation, usage, writing process, writing genres, real-world purposes for writing, etc., etc. We'll teach it where it makes sense to students! Our lessons will be integrated naturally into our "real" writing each day, and students will see first-hand why and how they should use commas, capitals, end punctuation, and correct spacing. It's powerful and effective!

The word level of reading and writing will be taught during the Words Block. This is where students will learn spelling and decoding strategies, not always taught in context. Remember that we do have three blocks where words are presented in a real context! Although the words and word parts are not always presented in context in this block, we do constantly help students understand how the transfer should occur. For example, when we teach our Word Wall words, we include an On-the-Back activity to teach the students that if you know how to spell the high frequency word "can" then if you're writing a story where you need to use the word "plan" or "span" or "van", you can spell that because you know how the pattern works for you. In Rounding Up the Rhymes, students can help you find the words that sound alike (rhyme), but they also must recognize which words have the same spelling patterns and, most importantly, how knowing different spelling patterns and sound-alike patterns will help them. Handwriting is also plugged into this block, again where it makes sense to teach correct letter formation.

What students learn through Self-Selected Reading Block is done without direct and explicit instruction. Sometimes it's hard, in fact, to resist the temptation to move into the "teaching mode," but we want this block's most important lesson to be the intrinsic desire to read. We do teach students indirectly about different genres during our read-alouds and through stocking our book baskets with a wide range of materials. Our conference might also allow a little instruction and guidance to individuals.

Four-Blocks is a total, comprehensive language arts program, meaning that you shouldn't have separate additional instruction like "spelling," "handwriting," "language arts," above and beyond the time set aside for the blocks. All of the useful language arts skills and strategies should be plugged in somewhere.

Now you're ready for planning those lessons in the coming year and putting the curriculum in the best, most effective context. Good luck!

**After reading the reminders above, you may want to check the simple chart in the Handout section at my website ( entitled "Plugging Curriculum into Four-Blocks Appropriately" that will remind you about what you need to plug in and where you need to plug it in.

Training Opportunities:

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

Hope to see you at a seminar soon!

Personal Journal:

As I write this, I'm heading back home from a great trip to the Southwest---Phoenix and Albuquerque again---where teachers are excited about Four-Blocks. I've had a wonderful week! Thanks to the teachers in Albuquerque for helping me to make my early flight! They had me packed and on the shuttle in a matter of a few minutes!

This weekend I head back to Germany to work with Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt and the kindergarten, primary and upper grades Kaiserslautern teachers. What a treat to work with these teachers in the beautiful country of Germany! One of my dreams will come true on this trip---my husband and I will leave Germany and spend a week vacationing in Paris! I'll be missing Halloween in the states for the first time ever! I wonder how or if they celebrate it in France? Guess I'll find out!

Hope Halloween is fun in your schools and that you get lots of treats---and no bad tricks! See you back soon!

Happy Reading! -----Cheryl

Gazette Articles by Cheryl M. Sigmon:

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