Sunday, September 22, 2013

What is the Four Blocks Literacy Framework?

Four Blocks is a balanced-literacy framework created for teaching language arts, based on the premise that all children don't learn in the same way. It integrates four language arts areas into reading instruction. These areas are: guided reading, self-selected reading, writing, and working with words.
The program consists of four teaching models, each presented daily at a time scheduled by the teacher according to classroom needs:

Guided Reading assigns children from all reading levels into small-group sessions called “book-club” groups. The objective is to teach comprehension and mastery of progressively more difficult material through exposure to a wide range of literature.

Self-Selected Reading usually begins with the teacher reading aloud. Next, children read on their own, selecting from a variety of books gathered by the teacher. This block may include a small group reading an easy book with on-level instruction. The block usually ends with one or two children sharing their books with the class in a “reader’s chair” format.

Writing starts with a 10-minute writers' workshop in which the teacher models the writing process. The children write their own stories on topics of their choice. The teacher helps the children revise, edit and publish their writing. The block ends with an “author's chair,” with several students describing work in progress or published books.

Words begins with the “Word Wall,” a 10-minute review of frequently occurring words posted above or below an alphabet (five new words per week). Students practice new and old words daily. Children learn spelling patterns using phonics to read new words and learn the patterns that allow them to decode and spell new words.

At Discovery School, we believe that this teaching framework is for use in regular, heterogeneously constructed classrooms. The framework allows at-risk students to receive specialized programming, such as Reading Recovery, and to benefit from this model as well.

Recent findings from emergent literacy research have demonstrated that children who easily learn to read and write have a variety of experiences with reading and writing that enable them to profit from school literacy experiences (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Classroom teachers will provide a variety of reading and writing experiences from which all children develop these six critical understandings, which are the "building blocks" of their success.
  • Children learn that reading provides both enjoyment and information, and they develop a desire to learn to read and write.
  • Students also learn many new concepts and add words and meaning to their speaking vocabularies.
  • Children learn print concepts, including how to read from left to write, how to read from top to bottom, etc.
  • Children develop phonemic awareness, including the concept to rhyme.
  • Students learn to read and write some interesting-to-them words, such as
    CVC word, consonant-vowel-consonant. (cat, dog )
  • Students learn some letters and sounds---usually connected to the interesting words they have learned.
         Ms. Nora Sierra
         Lower Elementary Coordinator



Monday, September 16, 2013

Why are Progress Reports important?

A critical element of any student's learning experience is the need for informed and meaningful feedback to those invested in the student's progress.  Reporting on student progress must have a well-defined purpose for it to be meaningful.   It must clearly identify the information needing to be communicated, the audience it is intended for and how that information will be used to improve future or related learning.

Educators believe that there are three primary purposes for reporting student progress:
1.    To communicate student growth to parents and the broader community.
2.   To provide feedback to students for self-evaluation.
3.   To document student progress and the effectiveness of instructional programs.

Discovery School is a school that has a commitment to and believes in supporting the individual learner.  It is critical that each child has a means to recognize and pursue individual interests, unique abilities, and to have his or her personal learning style honored.   The importance of communicating individual student progress to those with a stake in the learner’s growth and performance is of great value.
To fully support our school’s principles of learning, we believe we need to report on student growth in three

Student progress or the performance of each learner is measured in relationship to the shared standards that have been established at our school.

product of student work is best characterized as what a student knows and can do at a particular point in time.  The work a student produces is most typically demonstrated through the completion of ongoing assessments, assignments, presentations and projects.  While teachers will use the quality of a student’s product to assess progress toward meeting the standards, developmentally appropriate criteria and grading will be used to support students in the completion of the work they produce. 

The process each learner uses to enhance his/her achievement is measured by the student’s attitude toward learning, effort, work habits and utilization of developing learning strategies.                

Our school recognizes that students, parents and teachers alike must work together to support student learning.  Effective, meaningful and regular communication of student progress allows for open and constructive dialogue with parents and others; supports student self-evaluation and goal setting; and, provides important documentation for program evaluation and improvement.  Ultimately, our means of grading student progress will support and accentuate a desire for lifelong learning.  

Ms. Nora

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Helping Your Child Succeed at School

As a parent, you are your child's first and most important teacher.

When parents and families are involved in their children's schools, the children do better and have better feelings about going to school. In fact, many studies show that what the family does is more important to a child's school success than how much money the family makes or how much education the parents have.

Every child has the power to succeed in school and in life and every parent, and family member can help. The question is: How can we help our children succeed?

These articles offer a number of ways that parents can support their children's learning by getting involved early and staying involved throughout the school year.

On the following pages, you'll find the following articles and resources:

I hope that you will use the information and activities in these articles to get involved and stay involved and help your child to read better, to take on challenging math and science classes, to value the study of history, the social sciences, art and music-and to prepare for a rewarding life of continuous success.


Thanks and have a great week,

Ms. Nora Sierra

Lower Elementary Coordinator

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What is the Difference Between Phonics and Phonological Awareness?

The methods and theories of teaching children to read have literally gone in circles. Years ago the focus was on phonics. Then studies were released that supported a whole word concept of learning rather than focusing on the individual sounds. Years passed and the tide turned again back to phonics. In the book, Scaffolding Emergent Literacy A Child-Centered Approach for Preschool through Grade 5, the authors address the issue. "There is a strong 'Back to Basics' movement in the educational and political arena, which includes an emphasis on a strong phonics approach. To a degree, the call for phonics is not unfounded. Phonics is an important tool in the literacy process. It is not, however, the only tool. The power of phonological awareness is also staunchly recognized as a very powerful apparatus for literacy development.

What is phonics?

Phonics is the connection between graphemes (letter symbols) and sounds. Because we have been readers for a good portion of our lives this relationship seems apparent and common sense. At the very core of phonics lies the alphabet. In order to master phonics a person must master the alphabet. Letters then need to be connected to their corresponding sounds. As we know as English speakers, this is easier said than done. Many letters can represent a number of different sounds. Thus learning phonics is an ongoing process for a developing reader.

Role of Phonics in Reading

As you may have noticed phonics and phonemic awareness (the understanding that words are comprised of small segments of sound) are intimately connected. Phonics relies heavily on a reader’s phonemic awareness. The reader must not only understand that words are made up of phonemes (small units of sound), he must also know a number of phonemes. Since a reader’s primary phonemic awareness develops through speaking and listening, most children come to reading with many phonemes stored in their knowledge banks. Phonics instruction connects these phonemes with written letters so that they can transfer their knowledge of sounds to the printed word. This is why phonics instruction is an important component of early reading education.

The goal of phonics instruction is to help readers quickly determine the sounds in unfamiliar written words. When readers encounter new words in texts they use the elements of phonics to decode and understand them. Phonics instruction has a strong impact on the reading abilities of young children. Those receiving phonics instruction in the early grades (K-1) showed significant gains in their reading comprehension and spelling abilities and moderate growth in oral reading ski

What is Phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds-phonemes--in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes (the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in a word's meaning).


Why Phonemic Awareness Is Important


·    It improves students' word reading and comprehension.

·    It helps students learn to spell.



April 20, 2018

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