Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks

With the end of the school year (and all of the book studies I'm stalking reading), I've spent a lot of time reflecting on what's worked in my classroom...and what hasn't worked. I keep coming back to the same conclusion. I've followed the basal reader, used the Guided Reading structure, the Daily 5 structure, my own blend, etc...but the BEST I've done as a reading teacher was when I structured my lessons using the Four Blocks framework. Remember Four Blocks? It's not quite as popular as it used to be, but I dusted off my books and reread some of them and even put into practice some of the ideas during the last few weeks of school. 

If you're not familiar with the framework, you can check it out here:
Basically, the premise is to create a balanced literacy approach by having instruction in each of the four blocks each day. Ideally each block would be 30 minutes in primary grades, with variations on time in the upper grades. For example, in 4th grade we might not really need 30 minutes for working with words, and may need more time for writing and guided reading.

Why this structure works for me:
  • Each component has it's own scheduled time. I had this in the other formats, but I found that if I'm teaching a short minilesson on word work, then letting the kids choose an activity to work on, I'm liable to skip that lesson if time is short. 
  • Kids practice what I just finished teaching! I don't really like teaching a comprehension lesson, then having children practice something totally different. Can't wrap my brain around that...
  • Flexibility: Especially within the Guided Reading block. If it suits the lesson and needs of my kids to meet with me in small groups, great! If not, I can have them work with partners, independently, or any variation. I don't feel the pressure to meet with 4 small groups every day!
  • There is a dedicated time for me to conference with kids during Self-Selected Reading and during Writing. I love this! It's another thing that gets pushed to the side if I don't have the time set aside. 
  • Book Blessings and read alouds begin the Self-Selected Reading block. I don't have to find a time to squeeze them in anymore!

This summer marks my twelfth year teaching. I can hardly believe it! It has flown by so fast, and I've learned so much along the way. I'm still learning! I think that learning about myself as a teacher and recognizing what works for me and my kiddos is almost as important as learning strategies for teaching. 

That's why Four Blocks is the model that I think I function best under...I like the set times for each component. I'm less likely to skip postpone something this way. A place for everything, and everything in its place. 

How about you? Do you still use Four Blocks or components of it? What have you found works best for your teaching style and kiddos?


9 comments:

  1. Hi Farrah,
    I hadn't heard of the Four Blocks but have been using The Daily 5 (which seems very similar). The Daily 5 allows students to choose their activity while the teacher is conferencing or doing the guided reading. I may tweak the Daily 5 this year in a way that sounds similar to what you are doing. I want to make sure that students have the opportunity to read and write for at least 20 - 30 minutes each day.

    Thank you for sharing and giving me food for thought!

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  2. I just read your post about jumping off the Daily5 Bandwagon. I'm not sure you totally did as I think the way you are organizing your structure makes sense. I agree with you about the atmosphere in the room when everyone is Reading to Self...it set the tone in my class this year that "Reading is Important and Matters". The kids got that - but it worked so much better when they were all doing it at the same time.

    Thanks again!

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  3. Thanks for posting on this. I struggle with time in my classroom. I teach two language arts blocks and seem to always be "robbing Peter to pay Paul." I haven't used four blocks since I departmentalized, but it may be the solution to my problems!

    Megan
    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

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  4. I use a modified version of the 4 blocks as well. I merge it with the the ideas of Fountas and Pinnell's reading workshop to teach reading in a departmentalized setting. I handle all but the writing block during our rotations. I too found that it helps me fit everything in and it gives my kids a great structure to their day- they know what to expect when they enter my room. They know that there will a read aloud/mini lesson, that they will be given time to read independently, that they will confer with me individually or with a group, and we will end the class with word work. Once I broke my class time up into small chunks like that, I felt like I was accomplishing a lot more. I feel the 4 blocks deserves a revival too :)

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  5. Thanks, everyone. It's nice to have the feedback and affirmation.

    Farrah

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  6. I've heard of the 4 blocks before but never used it. It seems like a fantastic structure for literacy. I will be teaching social studies next year so even though I will certainly weave literacy into our day, it won't be the sole focus. :)

    Shannon
    http://www.irunreadteach.wordpress.com

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  7. I too used to teach the four blocks (actually I was a kindergarten teacher at the time so it was the building blocks). I had the highest DRA scores year after year when we followed that plan. I wish that it had not fallen so far out of favor.... it was much better that what my district requires we do now. :(

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  8. This year will be my first year as a 5th grade teacher. When trying to figure out how I would structure my literacy block I decided to read Big Blocks. I think that the four blocks just makes since. I am also seeing how I can fit Common Core into the blocks as well because CC has content focused reading and needs lots of guided reading for more difficult text. Plus with all the testing the kids need the self-selected reading block to build their reading stamina.

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  9. This year will be my first year as a 5th grade teacher. When trying to figure out how I would structure my literacy block I decided to read Big Blocks. I think that the four blocks just makes since. I am also seeing how I can fit Common Core into the blocks as well because CC has content focused reading and needs lots of guided reading for more difficult text. Plus with all the testing the kids need the self-selected reading block to build their reading stamina.

    ReplyDelete

 

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