One appealing aspect of 4-Blocks is that it addresses kids' individual
learning styles in a manageable way, particularly the learning modalities
of students--those who are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Research
bears that our profession has been far too generous with the auditory approach,
especially at the upper grades. Many of us are amazed at how effectively--and
how eagerly--students learn when they are really engaged in learning. This
week's idea which can be a part of your summer planning and construction
is the use of Story Bits in your program. This is another tangible, concrete
way to involve kids in their learning and to provide a much-needed school-to-home
connection. Such a simple idea, but with such great results.
What are Story Bits? Story Bits are concrete memories that children
can use to retell and share something they have read or that has been read
to them. Teachers must think of what little "bit" of a story would help
the children remember what has been read. Some examples follow:
||a circle of foil to look like a shiny fish scale
||a die cut in the shape of a dog
|Butterfly Alphabet Book
||colorful tissue shaped into a butterfly
|How a Seed Grows
||cut-out of a stove top hat
|Out of the Ocean
||a small shell
|It's Disgusting and We Ate It
||a bug sticker
The idea is, of course, that you find any little object that is related
to the story--a scrap of cloth, a sticker, a shape, a shell, a seed, a blade
of grass. Keep it simple so that you'll be encouraged to do this on a regular
basis. You'll be sending these home with the kids on whatever schedule
you determine is practical--weekly, perhaps.
Next, prepare a letter to inform your students' parents of what Story
Bits are all about. Here's a sample letter to include in your bag:
This year your child will be bringing home a Story Bit each week. This
will be a reminder for your child of a book that we have read in our class.
Please ask your child to tell you about the book. This sharing experience
will help your child's literacy development and will provide a warm and
special time for the two of you to talk about books.
Please find a place where your child can keep all of the Story Bits
that will come home. I think he/she will be surprised at all the story
treasures that will collect over the weeks of school.
You may be able to print about three of these letters to one page so
that copying will be kept to a minimum. You'll probably want to put some
attractive border on yours. Next, you'll need to reproduce the copies and
cut apart the letters if you've included several on one page. After this,
you're ready to package your Story Bits. For each child, you'll need one
sandwich bag, one letter to parents, and one story bit (the same bit for
each child). You can either require students to return their bags the day
after the carry them home or you can furnish new ones each week if you
feel that expecting returns isn't realistic. This summer you'll have time
to think about the objects that will best represent the stories that will
Fitting this into the 4-Blocks Model might be accomplished by planning
to include this once a week on a designated day as a part of the Self-Selected
Reading Block. Perhaps, each Wednesday you'll read aloud a story as you
normally do to open the block. Following this--just as you always do, the
students will read and you'll have your conferences with some students.
Then, to conclude the block, the sharing time might include passing out
the Story Bit bags with a reminder to be sure that they remember to share
that night with someone at home. You might ask a couple of students, "What
will you share with your parents tonight?" so that all kids will have some
modeling of what's expected.
Now, what is being accomplished with this activity? Several things--
for one, retelling a story is a skill we want kids to develop--paraphrasing
the plot, putting the events in the correct sequence, and remembering the
characters or the facts. Another benefit is making that home-to-school
connection and encouraging special moments between kids and their parents.
You will certainly want to explain this to parents in one of the earliest
Open House nights your school hosts. A third benefit is that your kids
will surely be impressed by how many Bits are being collected across the
course of many weeks. In some ways, they will have tangible reminders of
how well-read (or well-read to!) they have become during the school year,
especially when they realize that these bits are but a mere fraction of
the books they've been exposed to. And, last but certainly not least of
all, another great benefit is that your kids will love the special day
of the week during the Self-Selected Reading Block that they can look forward
to what special reminder of a book they will carry home with them.
Hope this will be an idea that you'll consider in your summer planning.
By the way, don't feel guilty in the least if you're not busy working on
school stuff. Summer is also intended to be a time to rest, relax, and
have fun--especially for hard-working teachers!