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.
The 4 Blocks Center...
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Sifting and Sorting Through the 4-Blocks Literacy Model
by Cheryl M. SigmonThat's Novel!
I recently heard from Theresa Miller, a 6th grade language arts teacher at Armstrong Middle (Home of the Mighty Wolves!!) in Rayne, Louisiana:
"I'm really excited to be implementing 4-Blocks in my classroom and have been working all summer in preparation. My one big question mark still revolves around the use of novels in my class. Our textbook is not the best, in my professional opinion. Therefore, I've taken up the practice of teaching my reading through class novels. I'll teach comprehension skills and strategies in each chapter and will follow with writing summaries, predictions, etc. Is this my best attack?"
Theresa has been kind enough to let me share her question and my advice. I have visited many classrooms across the country and have found that this is a fairly common practice at upper grades and one that is definitely worth addressing. Right away I'll tell you that I don't think this is a good plan for your year and that there are a number of reasons for my position. Let me share those with you.
First, it's important to remember that our objective in the instruction of reading is NOT to raise novel readers in our classrooms. Do we hope that students will enjoy reading novels throughout life? Sure we do! But, we're hoping that reading novels will be an outgrowth of getting hooked on reading in Self-Selected Reading Block and all that we do to encourage reading habits and a love of reading. Our goal as reading teachers should be to teach children how to read ALL types of printed materials well and to accomplish that we have to use ALL types of printed materials in our classroom.
To a fault, probably because the majority of classroom teachers are females, when we choose reading materials for our classrooms, we choose fiction. When I check the titles of the novels chosen by teachers who organize their year around novels, that's exactly what has happened---numerous text sets of fictional novels. Some teachers do make an attempt to vary the genre as far as types of fiction---historical, science, and fantasy. But, it's fiction nonetheless and definitely doesn't offer the variety students need!
Based on the statistics from the American Library Association, we know that when boys go to the library 80% of what they check out is nonfiction! They don't particularly enjoy reading about things that aren't real. So, by giving them a steady diet of novels, we actually turn them off from reading! This is certainly an undesirable outcome!
Another problem with reading novels is that students aren't being taught enough strategies for processing informational text. Informational text is different from narrative text, and students need to know that. Informational text generally is different in these ways: 1) Pages of informational text are usually more dense with text. 2) The style of writing in informational text is different and usually lacks the voice of narrative text. 3) Organization of informational text is different, generally using headings and subheadings to organize and prioritize information rather than with through the narrative elements of characters, setting, plot, problem/solution, etc. 4) When read both orally and silently, informational text has a special sound, a different cadence. Students need to know these things about informational text. They need to know the characteristics and how their strategies for processing must change accordingly. Some students actually have informational text phobia! The symptoms: profuse sweating when they pick up their science texts and heart palpitations when they open their social studies books. Lets eradicate this disease!
If you aren't concerned with testing programs, skip this paragraph. (Ah! No one has skipped this paragraph, have you?) Research says that the text used in standardized testing material is better than 60% nonfiction! Yikes! What do you think happens if students haven't learned how to read nonfiction and if they don't feel comfortable reading it? Not a pretty picture when the test scores come back to us! Students need lots of exposure to the types of nonfiction included in tests.
Some teachers worry that students need to read all long texts when they reach a certain grade in school. They say it prepares them better for testing programs and for the load of reading in future grades. I would agree that children do need to learn to focus for extended periods of time---not just on reading but on many different sorts of tasks. Correct me if I'm wrong, however, I don't know of any---repeat ANY---standardized tests require novel-length reading. If you teach students during Guided Reading to process different types of text and if you provide daily opportunities to read during Self-Selected Reading Block, trust me, they'll be prepared for that test.
Finally, the real reading that we want our students to be well prepared to tackle in life isn't the reading of a novel. Our real world reading is reading a technical manual to program the DVD player, reading a recipe so that we enjoy a good meal, reading the newspaper to find out about the world around us, reading reference materials and jotting notes that we can use to summarize the text. What will our students do when their boss tells them to, "Read this report and prepare a summary for the meeting in the morning?" if we haven't taught them to do that with informational text? Preparing students to be productive citizens through their proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening is what we're all about. Novels are only one tool that we'll use to achieve that goal.
So, let's use novels---but sparingly, along with lots of different types of materials and lengths of materials so that kids will be ready for "the test"---and for life!
Hope you'll check my website at www.cherylsigmon.com for new items this month to help in your schools and classrooms!
Below are seminars that I have coming up in the future.
Hope to see you at a seminar soon!
I took some vacation time at the beach with my family. I had quality time with the grandbabies, in-laws, husband, daughters, mother, sister, and others. (By the way, if you haven't visited our beautiful beaches in South Carolina, you really should!) Beach time is always good reading time, too. Among other things that I took to read, I read Grand Avenue at the recommendation of my friend Carol (a teachers at Epstein School in Atlanta). You might like it, too, for some good adult reading!
This week I've been back to Albuquerque to work with Nancy Dillon and the teachers in her area. Primary and upper grades teachers are into their second year at Alamosa Elementary School. It was a great visit for me! Nancy carried me up to the mountains to see the spectacular view of Albuquerque. Wow! Breathtaking! Thanks to Nancy and the upper grade teachers for getting me packed and to the airport for my flight---just in the nick of time! I was one of the few folks traveling on 9/11---and only because it didn't dawn on me when I booked my flight! I obviously had a safe flight home.
This weekend I kept my baby grandson all weekend. He's such a little angel! I already miss cuddling with him! Grandchildren are the most wonderful gift.
Hope September is going well for you! See you back here real soon!