Article #63
The Media Center as the Hub of Four Blocks
Cheryl M. Sigmon

An inquiry came recently from Sylvia Hix, a Library Media Specialist at Lakeview Elementary in Nashville, Tennessee. Sylvia and a teacher in her school were busy writing a grant to support some training in Four Blocks, and she wanted me to share with her how---and if---I felt that a media specialist could be helpful and involved in the school's implementation of the Four blocks framework. Sylvia and I both thought that our discussion might be useful to others.

Yes, media specialists can be critical to the success of 4-Blocks in a school. Of course, teachers can be successful in spite of that lack of support from the librarian/media specialist, but those teachers really have to be super-motivated and super-informed. When the partnership is strong between teachers and the media specialist, implementation can be so much easier and so much more successful.

Below are some ways that media specialists can help:

  1. Media specialists can keep teachers updated on good read-aloud printed material for their SSR Block. Using a few minutes during each faculty meeting would be a great way to model read-aloud techniques and to give advice about titles that would be of interest to kids at different grade levels.
  2. On some days, librarians can actually do the read-aloud portion of the block for classes that are using the library for SSR Block on a rotating basis. The kids then select books from throughout the library with the help of the teacher and the librarian. Learning to pick appropriate books is an important skill for students and is usually acquired with help from one of these knowledgeable adults.
  3. Librarians can be instrumental in helping teachers make decisions about books that would be popular and appropriate to include in the students' book baskets during SSR Block. In some schools that don't have generous classroom libraries, the librarians actually help teachers stock the individual book baskets. Stocking the baskets is a difficult task as we look for a variety of ranges: readability levels, topics, genres, and authors.
  4. Librarians can help with selections that can be used for the grade-level and easier materials during Guided Reading. Multiple copies of texts are almost always used for Guided Reading Block. Librarians can make recommendations about appropriate texts and in some cases might even store multiple copies from which teachers can make their selections. It's of little use for an individual teacher to have a huge collection of multiple texts when these can be stored in the library and made available to more teachers. The below grade level texts are sometimes difficult for teachers to access.
  5. Librarians can furnish appropriate texts for Words Block where teachers are always on the lookout for rhyming texts or those books that allow them to explore the word level of reading.
  6. Librarians can encourage teachers to use certain books for their modeling during Writing Block where authors use techniques, styles or offer exemplars of good Standard English that would help students grow in their own writing.
  7. The librarian can set aside space for student publications from various classrooms that are publishing during their Writing Block. Some librarians may want to actually put a bar code on the student publications and find prime display space for them. This would really motivate students to improve their writing! Students writing is exponentially better when they know that they have a real audience---and especially when that audience is their peers!
  8. The librarian may want to host a monthly (or whatever time period seems reasonable given all the tasks they do!) Authors' Tea for students who have published at certain grade levels or for representatives from each classroom. This again would keep those kids writing! Tables might even be set up for autographing.
  9. The librarian could be the person who helps the adults in the school establish a reading habit for themselves. Often, as we encourage students to acquire good reading habits we don't see that we are their best models for lifetime reading. We may use the time in school to help establish students' reading habits, but we hope and expect that there will be transfer outside of the school. We may never be able to convince kids of this if we don't see ourselves as readers. The librarian might be the person who includes adult books (not the X-rated ones---these are books for adults!) in the faculty newsletter. Or, perhaps the librarian starts a book club for faculty members who want to gather once a week or once a month to discuss a book they all agree to read. We could simulate Oprah's book clubs where we chat about the book and have snacks or dinner together. What fun! And, the students would know about it, too! They would know that we ARE readers---we practice what we preach!
  10. The librarian can serve as the hub for 4-Blocks growth in the school not only by furnishing books as stated above, but also by keeping the momentum going---displaying posters of students' work, displaying teachers' work, posting ideas for teachers to try in their 4-Blocks delivery, inviting teachers and students to review books and write advertisements for them, displaying a Word Wall, etc.

Yes! The librarian can be instrumental in keeping 4-Blocks alive and well in a school. There are many additional ways that you could use your time to support tremendous changes in teaching and learning in your school. I hope that these few ideas will spark your creativity as you support Four Blocks implementation!

ANNOUNCEMENT: My newest book, Modifying Four-Blocks at the Upper Grades (2001, Carson-Dellosa) is now out! I'm glad to have the writing of this one behind me, and I hope it'll be helpful to teachers at grades 4-8 and, perhaps, those at 3rd grade who have more advanced students. Let me know what you think after you've had a chance to read it. There are some great reproducibles in the back on the book!

Notice For Grant Writers: If you're writing grants and need assistance with implementation in your schools and districts, I'm willing to write letters of intent/commitment to support your training and implementation. I've furnished quite a few of these lately. I certainly want you to get good training and I'll be sure that you do! Just email or call if you need a letter. I know that most of your grants are due soon.

Training Opportunities:

Below are seminars (some 1 day and some 2 day ones) that I have coming up in the future. Please know that I have a small group of really excellent folks who work along with me, too. We do site-based work in schools and districts at your request. For their services, you can simply call 843-549-2684 and speak with Cathy Bell or visit her website at We offer various types of staff development: classroom demonstrations, on-site presentations, classroom observations and feedback, and exploring 4-Blocks in more depth, among other offerings.

My scheduled presentations:

Chicago, ILApril 24SDR
Detroit, MIApril 25SDR
Anaheim, CAMay 9SDR
Ontario, CAMay 10SDR
Indianapolis,INJune 20-21ERG (Grades 1-3 Intro.)
Milwaukee, WIJuly 10SDR
Grand Rapids, MIJuly 11SDR
Philadelphia, PAJuly 16SDR
Boston, MAJuly 17SDR
Newark, NJJuly 23SDR
Dayton, OHAugust 2ERG (Grades 1-3 Intro.)
Dayton, OHAugust 3ERG (Grades 1-3 Beyond the Basics)
Dayton, OHAugust 9ERG (Grades 4-6 Intro.)**
Dayton, OHAugust 10ERG (Grades 4-6 Beyond the Basics)
Charleston, SCSeptember 22-23ERG (Conference/Block Party-Southern---Style!- Details TBA!)

For ERG workshops on 4-Blocks and Building Blocks, call 843-549-2684 or go to For SDR workshops, call 800-678-8908.
Hope to see you at a workshop soon!

**Seminar Note: If you attend a seminar titled, Introduction to Four Blocks, Grades 4-6, please know that "Introduction" at upper grades still means that basics will be covered---not just the adaptations. For upper grade teachers who've had no Four Blocks training, they need---and appreciate---those basics.

Personal Journal:

Sad news to share with those of you who have written to me since Leadership Conference about my critically ill mother-in-law: Freida died on March 17th. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman whom we'll miss terribly. Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers that have sustained us throughout this difficult time.

Sylvia, Eve, and I had another day with the good folks in New Jersey. (We couldn't wait to get in that Sunday night to eat at Mastori's again!) Thanks again to Suzanne Phillips for taking care of travel details and for hosting my day!

I loved my quick visit to Albuquerque and Phoenix. What a beautiful part of the country! Thanks to "mailring buddy" Susan Nixon for whisking me to the airport just in time for my flight all the way back across the country that evening! Don't know what I'd do without a little help from my friends!

I had a great group of folks in Houston this week who were patient with me while I delivered my message with one of the worst colds I've ever had! They were very kind. Many thanks! It's hard to be on the road when you're sick. I took my cold on to another group in San Antonio today. Hope I didn't leave any cold germs behind as mementos! It was great to find that 4-Blocks is spreading in San Antonio. I've done a good bit of work there over the past two to three years through Region 20. The data coming out of that area sounds phenomenal! They shared very kind words about the new upper grades book that excited me!

Hope everyone's enjoying Spring Break or that you're now returning to your schools renewed and re-energized!


4 Blocks Goodies