Grade: 3-5
Subject: 4 Blocks

#1217. Classrooms That Work, chapter three mailring discussion

4 Blocks, level: Elementary
Posted Fri Jul 30 15:35:42 PDT 1999 by deb (
Coloma Elementary School, South Haven, USA

Classrooms That Work is written by Patricia Cunningham and Richard Allington
The 4 blocks mailring is discussing the book chapter by chapter.

On page 50 Cunningham reminds us that in order to think while you read, you must,

1. Have a mind set that reading is thinking and a determination to make sense of what you are reading,
2. Have sufficient background knowledge that you call up and try to connect to the new information,
3. Be familiar with the type of text and be able to see how the author has organized the ideas AND
4. Be able to identify almost all of the words.

Knowing that these four conditions must be in place in order for reading/thinking to take place, we can now consider what kind of lessons and activities we might engage children in that will ensure that they will learn to think while they read.


I find as I talk and write about implementing guided reading, I become lost in the details of implementing. This is a good passage to keep posted in my lesson plans so as I plan my 30 - 40 minutes of guided reading activities daily, I remember my focus.

Shared Reading has 4 criteria (page 51-52):
1. Very predictable text -- without too much print, sentence patterns repetitive, contains pictures to support those sentence patterns
2. Very appealing to children
3. The book should go somewhere in your curriculum
4. Print large enough that the kids can see it

Hi all-
I have a question regarding chapter 3. As I am new to 4 blocks, perhaps I don't quite understand the guided reading block. I thought I understood that it was not done in groups. However, on page 76 directions are given to "call 4-5 children together" for a lesson. Am I not understanding how
this block works, or have I just missed the point completely? HELP! Also, if any of you teach first grade and want to guide me through the first few weeks of school, I'd appreciate it! Thanks,
I asked Dottie about this specific question. She said the answer lays in the understanding of the philosophy of 4 blocks. You can pull a FLEXIBLE group of all ability kids during guided reading, maybe ssr, maybe writing too, even during a "non" 4 blocks time like centers. But the difference is that you would have kids who can read included in the group not just the low kids. Don't we all have the low kids previous years who really didn't make great gains? If we stick them together in the guided reading F&P way without a model they are the low group with a different name. Her point was that the children
need direct instruction on all the blocks, not just the guided reading block. She also reminded me that guided reading focusing on the comprehension aspect only works WITH all three of the other blocks.

Dottie Hall probably explained this better then me.

I have been reading chapter three as many of have also. I was struck by Cunningham and Allington's book on page 47, the second paragraph:
"Making sure that children are reading and writing is necessary for their growth. For many children, this essential component, while
necessary, is not sufficient. Research (listed in book) clearly demonstrates that struggling readers make more rapid progress when given
explicit instruction in how to read and write."

The next paragraph goes on to say, "comprehension is the focus of this chapter, Specifically, it will describe how teachers carry out lessons
and how they structure activities that teach children how to 'think as they read.' The focus on thinking is inevitable because that's what
reading really is --- thinking stimulated by words on a page."

I loved the example at the bottom of the page that reminds us that children are able to think about a ballgame. I too wonder why some
children don't think while they read? What can I do to ensure that students are thinking about their reading? What are the techniques that I use to teach thinking?

Many of us have read Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Keene. That book focused on teaching kids to think about thinking. I think the
listening/reading transfer lessons (page 69-71 of Classrooms That Work) tie together with Mosaic of Thought. I am wondering how you teach the
listening/reading transfer lessons. I would love more examples of using L/RT (Listening / Reading Transfer). Does anyone have a book they used
with this that they could share? How did you do it? What did you say? What books were good books to use? deb
I just read your post and then reread pp. 69-71 in Classrooms that Work. I have never really done a L/RT but am very interested in hearing
if others are and what they do.

As I think of this along with Mosaic, I wonder if we couldn't do this with the questioning that Ellen describes in ch. 6. It actually is what
she has done.

Read something, then ask the kids what questions they have. Read a little more then ask if questions were answered and what new questions
they have. This process of questioning/answering/ questioning is kind of like the predicting/confirming/adjusting/predicting process we go
through as we read.

Reading Transfer:
Tell the kids to read a selection, then jot down their questions. Remind them to do the same kind of thinking and listening to the
questions in their heads as they did when they listened to the teacher read.

I've never done this but think I will try very soon in the school year.
Think it could work?
MJ Solomon wrote:

Well I have already weighed in on this subject, but since things are quiet, I will post again. This is the point where The strategies we
learned in The Mosaic of Thought comes in. This is where we teach kids that reading is thinking.

Some things I do: (Sorry if you've heard it before)

I tell my kids the true story of the little first grader who just couldn't learn to read. His teacher was very frustrated because he just couldn't figure out reading. They worked all year, but he couldn't do it. Well one day late in April, the little boy came running up to the teacher's reading group, and said, "I can read! I can read!" Well even though he was interrupting her reading group, she stopped everything to hear him read. He read from a book: "The man went out on the lake in his yellow boat." Well! The teacher was impressed and the child was beaming. But being a teacher, she couldn't help but ask the little boy a comprehension question: "What color was the boat?" Well the little boy
got mad. He said, "You told me I had to READ what it said! You didn't tell me I had to LISTEN!!"

So this always gets us started on how we have to listen to ourselves as we read. When I'm at storytime, I find myself distracted by kids playing with their shoe strings, or playing with each other's hair. I stop and tell them that I have to reread because even though they couldn't tell, I had been watching the distraction and not listening to a word that I read. Even though I didn't miss a beat or even lack expression as I read.

We practice previewing books before we read them. We do picture walks, and make observations and wonderings about a story before we read it. They like to do this as a small group on a large sheet of paper with markers. They write 2 things that observed about the story just by
browsing it, 2 things the wonder about the story, and 2 things they predict will happen in the story. Then we share the posters with the class. Then we read the story, and see if any of our predictions were right and if any of our wonderings were answered.

One of the journal activities I ask the kids to do is to tell me what they were thinking as they were reading. Like one little boy was reading about the snow fall in Little House in the Big Woods, and he wrote that he was thinking about going to visit his sister in Maryland when it was
also snowing.

A lot of my kids wrote that they were thinking how they would do things differently than the character. Like the scene in Little House in the
Big Woods where pa doesn't shoot the deer in the end. Well some of my kids said they were thinking that they understood that, but felt he
should have done it anyway because he had to feed his kids.

I model what I'm thinking as I read all the time. It's pretty easy to
do. If you are listening to the story, your brain is telling you all
sorts of
things...what we learned in MofT... and all you have to do is share it
with kids so they get the idea.

We do the Say Something Strategy which I mentioned already here.
Students determine chunks of texts they will read before they stop and
"say something" about what they read. They either say it to a partner,
write it on a post it, or just say it to themselves. This is a check
because if they can't think of anything to say about what they just
read, they need to re-read that chunk.
Judy Folster wrote:

One thing that I do to "teach thinking" is to think outloud as I read to
them so I'm modeling what I want them to do.
blah, blah, blah,
this reminds me of my first day at school
that must have felt terrible when everyone
laughed at her
I wish I could do that
I wonder how this problem will be solved
now why did the author do that
I enjoyed another book by this author
Can't wait to see what happens next
Oh I think I know what they'll do!
I don't know this word but I know what this part
I don't know what this word means but I know
that tri means three so...

Another little trick to teach thinking while reading is, after reading a
story or passage, have everyone ERT--- "everyone read to find_________"
( what is the name of this character? How does he/she feel? Where are
they going? etc). I really like doing this technique.

Cheryl Ristow
Fullerton, CA
"btilllman" sent this to deb regarding
thinking while reading. I thought it would of interest to the whole 4
blocks mailring so I am sending it to the ring:

btillman wrote:
Regarding thinking while reading, many students that have had this
problem with me are from families where interaction is at a minimum. The
parents rarely speak to their children, and as a result, they have very
poor language skills. Sometimes referred to as "mother talk" I prefer
to consider it "parent talk", but the talking we do to our toddlers at
home during daily work builds the foundation for these thought patterns.

For instance, my 3 year old and I made a cake for my mom's birthday. She
had a million questions to ask and all during the process we were
talking. In a sense, her questions were causing me to think out loud as
I baked. "What's that?" "It's coconut" Where does it come from? A
tree. etc. etc. Children who miss out on this come to school without
that wild curiosity-- they've never had anyone to listen to their
questions, or answer them, so they just quit asking. Maybe our
thinking out loud can reawaken that curiosity.

Kathy Carson

I have a few thoughts about thinking and reading. My husband can read a
novel in about 1/4 the time that I can, and remembers the plot and
motivations of characters well enough to discuss it with me if I read
the same book after him. He is obviously thinking while he reads, but I
doubt he hears the words. I read slowly, hearing the accents and
intonations, often rereading to try to figure out where people are, or
why they do what they do. We both think while we are reading, but
differently. My children can't stand to have my husband read to them.
He reads out loud in a very monotonous, voice, with little
excitement.The sound of the words isn't important to him. They love me
to read to them, because I get into the sounds of the words. When my 8
year old son reads to himself, or listens to me read to him, he becomes
the characters. I can see his body posture change as he reads and
experiences the story. He has even been known to dress in a costume to
read. But spoken language is difficult for him. He can't always get
his point across easily with words. But he loves to read. My
intelligent, A student 6th grader hates to read. She likes to think,
but she doesn't like to imagine. She's logical.

I love all of the strategies that have been discussed this week for
helping people think while they read. We just have to remember that
everyone thinks differently. I think we have to be sure to cover
strategies for the visual reader and the auditory one, as well as those
who "become" the character and experience the stories as they read, and
those who don't really imagine much. If we make a concious effort to
cover all kinds of thinkers in our strategies throughout the year, we'll
really be teaching everyone!
Page 47 -

"There is a myth about children who have difficulty with reading
comprehension, which is that they 'just can't think!" In reality,
thinks all the time and some struggling readers, who must take care of
themselves (and often younger brothers and sisters), are especially good
thinkers and problem solvers. If children can "predict" that the
ballgame will be canceled when they see the sky darkening up and can
"conclude" that the coach is mad about something when he walks in with a
scowl on his face, then they can and do engage in "higher-level"
thinking processes."

This really gets back to the practice of underestimating what children
are capable of doing. We need to challenge our children, even the
younger ones, and allow them to work through higher level comprehension
strategies. Yes, I know what we were all taught in college about Piaget's theories, however, time and time again when presented with the
option to do just this, children amaze us. I was truly amazed at what my first graders were able to accomplish this year. When presented with
a task in guided reading, and given the opportunity and freedom to explore, they really rose to the occasion. Discussion groups during
guided reading were a key element to my success.

I've also found that the ideas we were presented with in Mosaic
of Thought really compliment this chapter. They lay the groundwork for
using these higher level thinking skills in primary classes. When I
asked the author, Ellin Keene, when she would begin teaching these type
of skills she responded -- "Day 1 in Kind." She further stated, that
they are researching the results of doing activities in PreK.
As the focus of education now shifts to the early childhood years, I
think we will see a move to introduce these strategies at an earlier age
then once deemed appropriate. Personally, I applaud such a move, but we
must remember to keep it in perspective. In the early years we are
laying the foundation that will be further developed in later years.
This would be the immersion and exposure that is so lacking in today's