Grade: all
Subject: 4 Blocks

#1216. Classrooms That Work, chapter 2 mailring discussion

4 Blocks, level: all
Posted Fri Jul 30 15:20:45 PDT 1999 by deb (
Coloma Elementary School, South Haven, MI
Concepts Taught: reading, 4 blocks,

Classrooms That Work Conversations about chapter two

<< What are the ways you are implementing real writing and reading in your
classrooms? >>

Real Writing - We write letters to authors, pen pals, parents, friends - anyone who will
read our letters. We write thank you cards anytime someone comes in to visit our class. We make cards for our families on special occasions, or just because we care
to. We tried our hands at poetry, just because we loved Shel Silverstein's work
so much. We wrote a how to book and most of the children decided to write about how to take care of someone, or something near and dear to them.

Real writing to me is writing that is authentic, has a purpose and an audience. For the very young author it should be related to their lives. They should be encouraged to write about what they know and care about. All efforts should be applauded and accepted. As Mem Fox states in her book, Radical Reflections, most people don't just sit down and write a story. This is a very hard thing to do. Start with a simple task, like having them make a list of things to do. Let the writing come from the children, and not some contrived prompt. Base your lessons on these writing samples. What do my
children need to know, what do I notice about their writing, etc.?

Real Reading to me is also reading that is authentic and has a purpose. Why do most people read? Enjoyment, pleasure, to gain knowledge, the answer varies depending on the individual. A book/story should be read and discussed in as natural an environment as possible. Children should not make a diorama, and I know I'll ruffle some feathers here, after reading a book. Rather, they should be in a literature group, discussing, analyzing and synthesizing the book. A nice source of information for this topic is Mosaic of Thought, by Ellin Keene. Laura
deb wrote: In the very beginning of chapter two, the author encourages us to ask
ourselves, "How much time will the teacher and the children spend reading and writing real things?" Now focus on the children. Observe the real things that they read and write. As I plan for the Fall, I am beginning to make a list of all the types of writing and reading I want to do with the kids. That way I can check it off as I do it and jog my memory. Read and enjoy.
It looks like the chapters align pretty well, except for chapter 7
in the new edition. If you're reading the old edition, just change your
numbering after chapter 6 (old 7 = new 8, old 8 = new 9, etc.) and take
lots of notes when we discuss chapter 7 (lots of good ideas - in the words
of PC and RA, "describes some "above and beyond" strategies that have
proved successful for children for whom learing to read is unusually
difficult"). In the preface to the new edition the authors state that they
attempted to preserve the best of the first edition and added what they had
learned since writing it. Lucie 1st/CA
Literate Homes...p. 22...I tell parents, show them articles I've saved,
etc., but I have a really hard time convincing them that reading aloud
to 9 year olds before they go to bed, having books and newspapers at
home, letting the kids see the parents read, etc., is so very, very
important. When they ask about homework (they really mean worksheet or
math book page), they don't really believe me when I say the most
important thing their child can do each night is READ! Any suggestions?

Two personal thoughts...

1) When my own kids were in elementary school I realized (after a comment that my son made) that they thought I only read their books. I was saving my own reading for after they were in bed. I started setting the alarm half an hour earlier and beginning my day with a book (and a cup of coffee!) in bed. I still have this habit. Bonus: I don't fall asleep after two pages.
2) My own three children were all in French Immersion (Canada) and received all instruction in French until the beginning of Grade 3 when they started one hour a day of English reading and writing. I never "taught" them to read English, but I did provide what would be described as a literature-rich home. When they started Grade 3 all three children were reading well above grade level. This experience changed my attitude as a teacher...I no longer see myself as an instructor. Instead, I see my prime responsibility is to create a rich environment...the learning will automatically follow.

Jennifer 4th/Alberta
Questions raised at the chatroom about chapter 2: There is not a right or wrong answer.... just what do you think? How do you do it? What grades? Are we writing morning message in front of kids or before they arrive? Are we making errors, or writing correctly? How is morning message different from writing workshop?
It says to read real things at least 4 different times in the day. When
do we? Also what are the real things that we are reading? How are you
implementing this in your class?

food menu
what's up with lunch
eyewitness readers 1800 777 8600
Tammy wrote: I think "morning meeting" for those of us who have them would be a good time. Many times I would address news of national interest or tidbits from the news that I thought the students would be interested in right before the Pledge of Allegiance. I should have been bringing in newspaper articles instead. I think this can be done in 5 minutes or so a day. Of course, the non fiction science books and things can be used when we are focusing on those some days also. I have the Highlights magazine but don't really think that is the best magazine (though i do "bless them" when we get a new one). I would like to hear from those that have used the different magazines and maybe hear a description and likes and dislikes of each. Such as "Backyard", "Times for Kids", Ranger Rick" ,"Sports Illustrated for Kids", etc. I know some of you mentioned in the chat Scholastic news also. I would like to subscribe to a couple but, of course, funds are limited.
Think about the summary in chapter 2. How do you implement it in your room? What
changes have you made because of this chapter, or 4 blocks?
I am starting new threads so we can track the comments better. But jump
in at anytime. I was kicked off the chatroom 3 times tonight. I tried to jot down
notes so that we could discuss what was said, but also add on and
comment on the chapter. Go into the book... list your main points ---
<< What are we reading on easy days in grade three? I mean how many years of poems can they take ______ REALLY!--------

How about just easier books like Bill Cosby's Little Bill books or Arthur
picture books.(The Arthur picture books make great readers' theaters) My
third grader loved those last year. Also try some of the traditional fairy
tales in readers' theater form like the Three Little Pigs, etc
Just a thought, Dollie
Pg 21 "The first and most basic component of classroom instruction is
offering children a variety of real reading and writing encounters."

This struck me as one of the most important points of the chapter. I do have a variety of fictional reading in my classroom, but I am lacking in the nonfiction area- I have gathered a number of world, and Ranger Rick magazines over the summer, but I would love other suggestions. I use Weekly readers, but I teach using a lot of novel studies. I have decided to do some non fiction studies, and any ideas out there appropriate for 5th grade would be appreciated. Dollie/5th/GA

Page 26 Refers to using "big kids" as buddy readers. I just had to share my success with this last year. I taught Title I reading and had my 5th graders read with 2nd graders and my 4th graders read with a K class. This was one of the strategies I tried that was a huge success!!!! Everyone benefitted, but especially my Title I readers. Not only did it give them a real reason to read and practice reading, but it boosted their confidence and self esteem tremendously. If you have the opportunity to try this, Please do. The only draw back was finding the time-- for me every other week worked best. It was worth giving up the class time. Just my opinion. Dollie/5th/GA
Hi to All!
Well, for me it was a great discussion last night!!!!!!!! :):) I thought of a couple of ideas to implement in the class for "other" choices for reading. I teach first grade, but maybe someone can use these in upper grades....... I remember reading about the "junk" mail we receive, coupons, grocery mailers, etc. I remember the thrill I received as a kid going through those mailers and still do..... :) :) :) What about making a box/bag (whatever) to collect from the kids these things and they can take them and read them.
Whether during some "free" time that they might have or during SSR. Also I may try this later in first grade...... take a grocery mailer and then give the kids (of course imaginary) $20.00 for shopping and have them make a list and "buy" things with their money..... Just a thought! Tracy/1
I've not seen much discussion about interactive writing for the morning message. Does anyone do this? Have you found it successful? Thanks Deb for your ideas! I have a folder full of stuff waiting to be added to my planning/resource stuff.

Actually thanks to all of you for sharing your ideas! This is an exciting place to be and learn from one another! Andrea/1/OH
In a message dated 7/13/99 12:15:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< . When they ask about homework (they really mean worksheet or
math book page), they don't really believe me when I say the most
important thing their child can do each night is READ! Any suggestions? >>

Also, when we assign "just reading" how do we hold the children accountable.
How do we really know that they did read, especially those that don't like to. Some parents view "just reading" as no homework and don't bother to ensure that it is done. I have done running records when they bring the book back, but it is impossible to read to each and every child each and every day. Suggestions...... Laura
<< I teach first grade, but maybe someone can use these in upper grades.......
I remember reading about the "junk" mail we receive, coupons, grocery
mailers, etc. >>

One thing that I did with my 1st graders at the end of last year is have them
select a travel brochure (the kind you can pick up in motel lobbies or
restaurants) to read. I allowed them to work in pairs, read the brochure for
information, and share what they learned with the class. They were reminded
to use all reading strategies (look for the little words in big words,
picture clues, what sounds right, what makes sense, etc.). My class loved
this activity because it was non-threatening. Even the struggling readers
could "read" the pictures. The children were amazed at the number of
wordwall words they found in the brochures. Finally, they came up with some
great things to do this summer!

I have found that a log/journal gives the parents something concrete. As
they read with or to a child, parents/kids record the title on the log page.
The attached journal pages can be used for book responses. At the front of
the journal, is a page of ideas for parents to do writing/driting/,
illustrating or shared writing with their child. For these to be
successful, I found it necessary to model this at a parent meeting or 1:1 at
a conference.


I mentioned this last night in the chat room, but thought I'd share with
everyone. I purchase a day-by-day calendar each new year to keep in my room.
I find these in the small all calendar type stores. I usually choose ones
with real pictures of animals and factual info on each page (careful- some
calendars repeat animals often). My children are always fascinated with
animals. I incorporate it into morning meeting. I read the information and
pass it around the circle for everyone to look at the picture. There is tons
of great factual info of interest to the children. Every day a child takes
the page home. Sat/Sun is on one page- we do that on Friday- Friday is a
two for one day! :)

*Upper Grades: What about a Vocab Calendar. I think there are ones that
introduce a new word a day. I could be fun to hear new STRANGE words no one
new existed. And better yet who can use it throughout the day?

*I think there may be one with Genis World Records-- Could be interesting.

I think chapter two really challenges us to look for read reading in everyday
routines and situations. I always feel pressed for time so I try to look for
ideas to insert on a daily basis.


Last year I ran off "Home Reading slips" on bright pink paper. They simply
included, "My child____________ read the story ___________________ to me on
_________________ " and a signature line. The kiddos knew they needed a "hot
slip" whenever they took a book home. I know that parents could lie, (and
they sometimes do), but they had to fill in all the blanks and return it to
me the next day. Our report card includes a section on reading at home, so
all I had to do was pull out the pink slips and tell who was reading at home.

Szym wrote:
I am glad Laura raised the issue of reading at home. Last year I did a Read
at Home Program (RAH). Each night each child, daily homework, was to read x
amount of minutes. They recorded it in there RAH folder. Each Monday I
collected it.

All they recorded was the amount of minutes they read each night. The goal
was to read x amount of minutes per week(this included Saturday and Sunday).
Parents initialed the form. At the end of the month the children who met the
quota received a certificate and chose a book to keep from the book box (I
purchased with bonus points) They also stuck a sea creature on the wall that
was labeled, "A Sea Of Readers"

BUT BUT BUT....... now as I read the information in Chapter Two I think,
"should I do this" It kind of goes against the read for pleasure notion.
But again, a lot of the children in class would not pick up a book at home. I
also allow children to take books home from school. I think it tells the
parent I value reading at home. I am SO CONFUSED on this issue. I love
feedback- and I would love to know how Cheryl feels.

EVERY night I assign 15-20 minutes of reading for my 2nd graders. At
conferences I explain to parents the various ways this can be accomplished--
you read a page,I read a page, child read to parent, parent read to child,
etc. We have b/w composition books as homework books and the name of the
book and author need to be written on the page and initialed by the parent.
There are always one or two parents who initial anything put before them or
don't monitor homework, but for the most part my parents support the
assignment. A long time ago I realized that once a child leaves my room at
the end of the day, I can no longer control what they do or don't do. For
those students who do not have the support they need at home I have been
fortunate enough to find adult mentors who will come by school and read to
and with these kids on a regular basis. I too can provide extra attention on
a daily basis.

In a message dated 7/13/99 6:47:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< BUT I do the Fountas/Pinnel type method,
and have been using it for small group for 4 years. Please help me with my
addictions. Plus can I still use all those multiple copies that I purchased,
and leveled? I am trying and I think I can...I think I can..I think I
can...HELP! Lori >>

Yes, of course you can! Use those multiple copies, boy do I wish I
had more of them, in Self Selected Reading to ensure that the children are
practicing their reading with appropriate level materials - most of the time.
If you have enough groups on a theme, set up Book Clubs during your Guided
Reading portion where the children are in small groups, with each group
reading a different book. The books should be related and the comprehension
activity acheived through each book. There is information on Book Clubs in
Classrooms That Work and The Teachers Guide. In my opinion, you can always
find a use for books!!

Last year I taught using the methods outlined in F&P's Guided Reading book.
This was my bible during my Master's Program in Reading. The basic difference is a philosophical one. F&P believe in grouping children according to their level during guided reading. The children are reading in a group, but are not really interacting with each other as they read. They are reading out loud as you the teacher are conferencing. The other children are involved in literacy center activities.
4 blocks methods have children in mixed ability groups reading, discussing and learning together. The block begins with a whole group mini lesson, in which a comprehension strategy is discussed. The children are then given a purpose to read, and placed into some type of flexible grouping. This grouping varies. The conclusion of the block involves the whole group coming together to share and discuss what they have learned from their reading. This approach is far more effective in that all children are actively involved in the learning process. I have also found it easier to
manage that F&P because they are so involved with each other and the text. As
far as teaching methods I have to say 4 blocks works for me.
Yes, you can incorporate strategy ideas outlined in F&P into your four blocks classroom. Just find the appropriate block where that strategy would apply and fit it in. As a rule of thumb -- guided reading is for teaching comprehension. SSR is where you can address your fix up strategies one on one, as well as in your read aloud prior to reading. Word Block teaches word attack strategies through word patterns and endings. Writing Block teaches the conventions of writing, print and also develops reading strategies.
Hope this helps and good luck. Laura
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ writes:

<< I have the Highlights magazine but don't really think that is the best magazine (though I do "bless them" when we get a new one). I would like to hear from those that have used the different magazines and maybe hear a description and likes and dislikes of each. Such as "Backyard", "Times for Kids", Ranger Rick" ,"Sports Illustrated for Kids", etc. I know some of you mentioned in the chat Scholastic news also. I would like to subscribe to a couple but, of course, funds are limited. >>

My absolute favorite magazines, and my classes also, are Your Big Backyard - absolutely breathtaking illustrations of animals and insects. Perfect to supplement your nonfiction reading.">NWF: Your Big Backyard

This is good for K and 1. In most 2nd grades, you move up to Ranger Rick, same web site for information. Personally, in 2nd I stick with Your Big Backyard because the illustrations are so great. I just use it for Self Selected Reading time and it is on the easy level. The other magazine we love is Ladybug. This has some great easy level
stories that I use. I photocopy the story if I want to use for the whole class, probably against copyright laws. I really should call and ask them. Anyway, the magazine has lots of nice poems and each month there is 1 short story. They do well with this. We get Scholastic News, which I find very dry. The kids like it though. To get more mileage out of all of these, I purchased the plastic covers, like the ones the public library has their magazines in. I even put an extra Scholastic news in one. These are all in a bucket for easy grabbing during SSR. I purchased mine from Demco and online library supply store. Laura

The first time I read the summary (during last school year) it let me know that I needed a LOT more books in my classroom library. As a first year teacher who walked in to an EMPTY room (they opened a new section) I only had the books I brought with me. I was pleasantly surprised to find this summer when I put all my books in a database that I had over 100 already. I will spend the next year trying to collect still more books. I have found I can get lucky at the local thrift store sometimes and use a lot of Scholastic and Troll points too. Having a variety is important and though I pull from the local library I would love to have more, more, more books that stay in my room.
< Do you have the Ladybug phone number or website? Also what specific kinds
of activities do you do with the articles? Will you give an example? Than
Ladybug - 1-800-827-0227
This company has the following for different age groups -
Babybug - Preschool
Ladybug - I would say K-2
Then they have Spider - ages 6 -9
Cricket magazine - ages 9-12.

Ladybug has songs that you can sing, clap and dance if you like. It also has poems that you can use for poetry activities. See my web page for poetry ideas - (If you have trouble opening in Netscape, try using Internet Explorer instead.)

I like to read the short story included in each magazine on my easier level days in Guided Reading. I copy the story, and I really should make sure this is allowed, and distribute it to the kids. We then read using the same procedures used for any story in Guided Reading.

They also have rebus stories in the magazine to give some extra support to struggling readers.

The old magazines are available in a basket during Self Selected Reading block and the children do gravitate to the magazine basket. They can rip easily, so you need to do a mnilesson at some point on reading with magazines and how to turn pages gently.
Dollie - Have you thought about using the "If You Were. . ." books? They are non-fiction and go with American history (what 5th grade Social Studies is in Texas. I think the author is Ellen Levine. Some examples of titles include If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, If You Were Traveling in a Covered Wagon, etc. I think the kids would respond well to these. Suzanne
>I've not seen much discussion about interactive writing for the morning
message. Does anyone do this?<

I start the year in second grade writing two messages on one piece of paper, than as a class we correct them together - I try to incorporate the students names and concepts from my "required" DOL guidebook.

After about a month, I switched to writing one sentence and then allowing 2 students each to write a sentence - at the beginning we had to correct a lot together, but after a while it got to the point that the two students would help each other edit before they wrote it down!!

I was first skeptical about morning message - I call it Daily News - but I really was able to see a difference. My favorite story is when students would write a sentence like "Today we are going to the Library." We must have talked about this at least once a week - because we didn't include the name Library shouldn't be a capital. Well in April when we took the SAT9 test (language segment) low and behold that same sentence
was on the test just as the students had been writing it - almost of the class started laughing so hard we had to take a giggle break. Molly/San Jose
someone wrote: I love this idea! Can someone provide more info on how it is used? Also, how do you get it started and what activities go along with it? I've not seen much discussion about interactive writing for the morning message. Does anyone do this? Have you found it successful?
"L. Rossi"

For what it's worth, I find Morning Message to be one of the most
valuable teaching tools I use. It's hard for me to begin to describe how I
use it, as it changes with the needs of the class and is such a flexible
activity. Basically, I consider the purpose (for example, model the
thinking/planning process, teach a skill, give information, etc.), consider
the mood/activity level of the students (should we make it interactive with
them helping with writing, should I have volunteers guide me through it,
everyone call out, or me talk them through it, how detailed shall our focus
The main benefit is that it is an opportunity to model how
something should be done. This something could be figuring out how to
spell a word, how to use the word wall, using correct grammar and
punctuation, re-reading and editing, etc.
I usually do the message after a writing mini-lesson and before the
students begin their own writing. Sometimes we do it during working with
words if the skills taught fit in better there. I usually do all the
actual writing with lots of input from the class (their opportunity to show
what they know).
I don't enjoy interactive writing as much and try to do it with
small groups, letting students take turns "leading" and helping each other.
The purpose of this is almost always to share information and practice
This was posted on my mailring, however I felt it was relevant to our discussion on Classrooms That Work. Page 52 - "I think one of the main problems with basal readers is that in general their texts don't excite the adult reader, let alone the poor little learners, so there's no bonding between anyone or anything..."

This is somewhat dated, but still true. The newer basal anthologies have attempted to recapture the excitement by including authentic literature. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the format is still not exciting. I'd rather not have the books put together into one hardcover basal. I'd much rather have the individual class sets of real books.

Page 53- "One of the pleasures of a good book is having people close by to share it with, to pass it on to, borrow it from. The question that arises is, how do we get that haphazard, crazy, loving sharing into classrooms and libraries?"

One of the reasons I started this ring was to have people close by the share with. So far, I haven't been disappointed. How can we now transfer this over into our classrooms? How can we get that sharing and discussing into our classrooms? I think Mosaic was a great place to start. I also think the guided reading format in the four blocks structure is another. Laura