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Our team of experts is ready to work with you! And, we're NOT just Four-Blocks!
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The Audit and Refine Package
This support is offered to schools and districts that have Four-Blocks up and running. It's also available to any school that wants to strengthen its language arts program-whether or not it's Four-Blocks. If you've flat-lined with your scores, if you feel you're not getting the results you'd like to get, or if you're doing well but feel you could do better, let Cheryl and her experienced consultants audit your program to see just what's happening. Several schools and districts have taken advantage of this offering and have already seen dramatic changes. Cheryl says, "There's not a school yet where we haven't been able to pinpoint a problem that's keeping them from getting better results." Call now to get this support for your school! Next year could be your best year ever!
- Have the test scores at your school flat-lined?
- Are you doing well but want to do better?
- Are you not getting the results you feel you should be getting for your efforts?
Some of the Sigmon and Associates, Inc. training team (Marian, Cheryl, Lisa) that serve kindergarten, primary, and upper grades.
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Training in Four Blocks is necessary for success and can take many different forms. I can help with those parts of your training that require an experienced person. As you design training, however, you should also include opportunities for growth and support that can be led by interested persons (teachers, curriculum coordinators or administrators) who don't necessarily have a great deal of training or experience. These sessions can serve to continue the momentum that training and the additional follow-up sessions will build. Below, you'll find some ideas to consider, offering a variety of experiences in your training plan.
How I Can Help with the Beginning Steps of Training
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Awareness Overview: This is the first step of training that usually occurs in one full day or a half-day. It consists of the philosophy of the framework and the essential elements of the blocks.
In-Depth Overview: This is still an initial step of training that usually occurs over a two-day period (either consecutive days or separate days). It consists of the philosophy of the framework, the essential components of each block and some of the "nitty-gritty" management and implementation strategies.
Make-and-Take Workshop - This workshop has been popular for beginner and advanced audiences of kindergarten, primary and upper grade teachers. Teachers make the items that will help them implement their balanced literacy program with greater success. The usual comment we hear from this workshop is, "This was the most productive workshop I've ever attended in all my years of teaching!" Sigmon and Associates, Inc. gives your school or district the list of materials to order, and we come onsite to provide training in the use of the materials and direction in how to make them. Typically, schools/districts schedule this as the last day of their training or schedule a single day exclusively for make-and-take. You'll love it!
How I Can Encourage and Support Your Implementation
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Consultant Feedback: Sometimes it's helpful to have a Four Blocks expert come to your school to visit classrooms in order to observe classrooms where the framework has been implemented with the intent of giving the teacher some specific feedback-pats on the back for the good stuff and an area or areas for further refinement. This encourages teachers to practice and prepare and is an opportunity for a school to refine what they're doing. Sometimes the consultant's time can also be used to generalize on the information given in order to give feedback to the entire faculty on strengths of their implementation and areas where they may want to concentrate for growth. (This requires an experienced consultant.)
Classroom Modeling: We can model in classrooms to demonstrate the practices we encourage teachers to try. This shows teachers that our methods and activities work successfully with their students.
In-depth Topic Sessions: Some schools will feel that they need help in one or more specific areas of their implementation and that a consultant can help them. Some of the most common topics to support Four Blocks are:
- How to deliver a more effective conference during SSR Block
- How to deliver a more effective conference during Writing Block
- How to plug your curriculum into the framework
- How to assess students
- How to plan an effective Guided Reading lesson
- Great mini-lessons in Writing and Guided Reading Blocks
- Comprehension Skills and Strategies for Guided Reading Block
- Motivating Reluctant Readers during SSR Block
- Management Tips
- More Activities for Words Block
- How to Publish Student Writing
- How to Deliver a More Powerful Read-Aloud
- Good Books to Use in Your Classroom
- How to Connect Kids to the Right Books
- How to Align a Guided Reading Lesson
- How to Know That You're Covering All the Skills
- Integrating Among the Four Blocks
- Integrating Across the Curriculum
Grade-Level Discussions: Quite often, consultants can be used to meet with grade-levels of teachers to do some problem-solving or to give the teachers some new ideas, activities, and strategies. Schools sometimes use subs throughout the day who move from grade to grade relieving that grade-level of teachers to meet with the consultant. Even in 45-60 minutes, so much can be accomplished!
Classroom/School Walk-Through: Evaluations of the school and/or classroom environment can be tremendously helpful. To the trained observer, the physical environment can reveal whether or not implementation is thorough or lacking.
The 2 X 2 Model of Training: The "deluxe" model that is most ideal for supporting training would be the 2 X 2 Model. This would be two days of an In-depth Overview to get started and then a return visit of an experienced person for about 2 consecutive days every two months to accomplish any of the above training formats necessary. (The Indiana Four Blocks Statewide Training Model was built on this concept and has been phenomenally successful!)
How Your School Can Keep the Momentum Going
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Discussion/Study Groups: Some schools begin their implementation with some pre-planning in the form of study or discussion groups. Many schools agree upon certain books that all teachers will read and will be willing to meet and discuss in a round-table format. Some schools advertise a topic to have teachers study and meet about, such as a flyer placed in teachers' mailboxes saying, "You're invited to join us after school on Thursday at 3:15 for a brief discussion about the read-aloud portion of Self-Selected Reading Block. Please come and bring titles that have been successful in your class and methods that have made your read-aloud fun." Other discussion might be more theoretical in nature, such as, "Join us after school on Wednesday at 3 p.m. as we discuss the theory behind the Four Blocks method of non-ability grouping in Guided Reading." Or, discussion groups might be more functional, such as, "Join us after school on Tuesday as we begin to design a new report card that reflects what we're doing in Four Blocks. We hope to present our idea to the School Board in February!"
Teachers Visiting Teachers: Teachers can learn from each other as they visit classrooms. Non-threatening, non-evaluative visitations are a great way to get started. Just have teachers all list a block that they consider their strongest block-one they deliver with confidence, and a block they feel less confident in where they may need to see someone else deliver it. Match teachers by allowing them to visit the classroom of a teacher who says her strong block is one where the visiting teacher feels less confident. No evaluations are made and no judgments passed. The visits are fun, motivational, informational, and give everyone a chance to "show off" a bit!
Teachers Coaching Teachers: Moving beyond a mere visit to get some new ideas, visitations may evolve into coaching sessions. Some prior hints and guidelines are helpful if teachers haven't served in the capacity of a coach before. Visiting teachers should always give pats on the back for what is well done in the Four Blocks delivery and should offer some factual documentation of an area where the observed teacher might be able to grow and to refine what he/she is doing. Meeting face to face is most helpful as the two talk through what was observed. Good questioning strategies are helpful as well. (See Implementing the 4-Blocks Literacy Model by Cheryl Sigmon and published by Carson-Dellosa for some good Coaching Checklists that can guide and prompt these discussions in each block. Having the teachers work with an experienced 4-Blocks leader prior to these visits is ideal!)
Faculty Meetings: Brief periods during regular faculty meetings can make an impact in continuing the momentum of implementation. Different topics can be "assigned" to different faculty members or volunteers can sign up and suggest what they'd like to contribute. Some brief topics might be: good read-aloud books; favorite books at different grade levels; a new Words Block activity; new and creative ways for kids to chant the words during the Word Wall activity; variety of sharing formats for SSR and Writing; a few good management tips; publishing hints; a new book template for kids-and the list goes on and on. Some faculties even get together to make "share chairs" and/or "author's chairs" with some competition for "the most creative," "the fanciest," "best all around," etc. Teachers, support personnel, administrators, librarians-everyone-has something to share. Even 10 minutes per meeting can make an impact!
Journals: Some schools decide to keep Four Blocks journals. One principal shared that she "requires" (or maybe "strongly encourages" would be a better term!) new Four Blocks teachers to keep journals about their implementation. She collects them occasionally and responds to them. The dialogue has been a way for everyone to vent frustrations, seek help, or share their joys and successes.
If you're writing a grant and need a letter of support, showing that you can engage a trainer, I will be happy to furnish such a letter for you.
Whatever training plan you devise, be sure that it provides on-going, sustained support for the teachers who are delivering this new instructional framework. I think you'll find that your school may grow to be more cohesive through sharing common goals and objectives, talking a common "language," and articulating the curriculum across grade-levels. Let me know if I can help you with your training design and implementation. Good luck!
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