Article #17
A Principal's Point of View - SSR Block
Cheryl M. Sigmon

The 4-Blocks Model is a literacy framework that can be implemented by an individual teacher in a school isolated from additional support of other colleagues and administrators--if the teacher has adequate materials and a schedule that accommodates the model. There is no doubt, however, that this is not an ideal context for successful implementation. The best and most successful classrooms have been those where there is a strong network of support among the staff members and an instructional leader who actively supports the implementation efforts.

This week I have asked one such principal to share with you her experience in working with her faculty to get the 4-Blocks Model up and going, starting with the Self-Selected Reading Block. Her ability to facilitate a strong implementation of this literacy model, I believe, is reflected by the following:

  • She attended a full scale 4-Blocks training along with her teachers.
  • She practiced the methods in a real classroom. (Brave!)
  • She maintains enthusiasm about the changes occurring in the classrooms.
  • She takes advantage of available time such as faculty meetings to focus on elements of support, topic discussions, and make-and-take to strengthen the model.
  • She has processed the model to the extent that she feels confident in offering direct coaching suggestions to teachers.
  • She demonstrates to her faculty in many ways that she values literacy in the school.
  • She finds ways to support her teachers' efforts in many ways, including financially.
I hope that you will enjoy hearing from Patty about her first-hand experience with 4-Blocks. In her own words...

More Than a Read-Aloud!

Patty Schaffer, Principal of Ron McNair Elementary School, North Charleston, SC

Read, read, read!

I remember reading lessons from my own elementary school years. My favorite was when my eighth grade teacher read aloud Cheaper by the Dozen. She didn't stop and question or discuss the story. Every day after lunch she just read! For once, the over-crowded class was quiet and attentive to the teacher's voice. We loved hearing the funny story. The teacher through her read-alouds turned many of us on to reading in that eighth grade class. We knew she loved reading and sharing with us! You probably remember a similar experience from your own school days.

I am a principal of a school where children have very few reading materials in their homes. About 98% of our students are on free or reduced lunch. Reading with students was a must in our daily routine in every classroom. Our read-aloud times were not necessarily tied into the reading curriculum though. We had tried DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) and various silent sustained reading methods. However, the 4-Blocks Self-Selected Reading Block provided us with the structure we needed to make the total instructional program more meaningful. The teacher read-aloud has given us the opportunity to do just what my elementary teacher did--let the students see the teacher reading and enjoying a book. The silent reading time allows the students to be readers, too. The conferences during the block give the teacher the time to work with students to meet their individual needs. This was always a goal for us, but, try as we might, we often could not fit one-on-one time into the schedule.

Self-Selected Reading Block is my favorite block, and it is no surprise that I chose to write about it first. Here are a few ideas for administrators to help with implementation of the SSR Block:

  • If your teachers are implementing one block at the time or are reluctant to get started, you might suggest that they start with SSR Block. It is, perhaps, the easiest block to organize.
  • I would highly recommend that you try some "hands-on" involvement with the model. SSR is one block with which you're sure to have success. With a little assistance from your teachers on sharpening your conferencing skills, you'll do just fine!
  • Find fun ways to support implementation. My teachers really got enthused when we brought chairs for all of them (used chairs or even new, inexpensive plastic ones), spray paints, ribbons, etc. to a work session. Everyone made a Reader's Chair for the sharing segment of SSR Block. The chairs in the classrooms are beautiful and help us provide just the right look that sends the message: Reading is is fun...and we want to hear what you have to say about it!
  • Encourage your teachers to form book study group around professional books that support the model and join those study groups. This increases their knowledge and yours and also makes for a far more cohesive faculty. Classrooms that Work is the book we first studied.
  • Know the model well enough to get into the classroom to help coach teachers to strengthen their implementation.
  • Support your teachers with the books, materials, and equipment necessary for success.
Our teachers are making a difference in their classrooms through 4-Blocks. Reading instruction is more meaningful and is the priority in our curriculum. There is still that wonderful opportunity for teachers to laugh and even sometimes cry over a "story moment" with their students through meaningful read-alouds and to see their students "close-up" in the weekly conference. For us 4-Blocks was the change that brought about improved instruction. I urge other principals to take a serious look at the 4-Blocks Model. The payoff is definitely worth the effort!

4 Blocks Goodies