Article #33
Summer Planning
Home-School Connections: A Bit of a Story

Cheryl M. Sigmon

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:

Book Story Bit
Rainbow Fish -- a circle of foil to look like a shiny fish scale
Dog Breath -- a die cut in the shape of a dog
Butterfly Alphabet Book -- colorful tissue shaped into a butterfly
How a Seed Grows -- a seed
Abraham Lincoln -- 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:

Dear Parent/Guardian,

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 be read.

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!

4 Blocks Goodies