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Four Block Literacy Model Research Papers

What Is It?

Developed more than a decade ago by literacy experts Dr. Patricia Cunningham and Dr. Dorothy Hall in conjunction with first grade teacher, Margaret DeFee, Four Blocks is a balanced-literacy* framework for teaching language arts in grades The Four Blocks program -- based on the premise that all children don't learn in the same way -- integrates four language arts areas into reading instruction. Those areas are: guided reading, self-selected reading, writing, and working with words.

Although originally created for use in first grade, Four Blocks has been adapted for use in other grades as well: Building Blocks provides a foundation for language, print, and literacy in kindergarten, while Big Blocks emphasizes activities appropriate for grades

Explore It

To learn more about the Four Blocks literacy model, explore the following Web sites:

Use It!

The activities and lessons below will help you use the Four Blocks literacy model in your classroom.

Learn More About It
To extend your understanding of the Four Blocks literacy model, visit the following Web sites: Learn More About Balanced Literacy*
To learn more about balanced literacy, visit the following Web sites:

A new report came out today, authored by reading expert Louisa Moats. In it, Moats takes a hard look at reading programs that market themselves as ones based on Scientifically Based Reading Research (SBRR). The report, "Whole Language High-Jinks," examines Reading Recovery, Four Blocks, Guided Reading, and programs that use a generic "balanced literacy" description. It also includes a comparison of two major approaches to reading instruction (SBRR and Whole Language Derivatives).

The report says this: Some reading programs, in an effort to capitalize on Reading First funding, market themselves as programs that reflect SBBR, when in fact, they do not. Moats' report uses strong language, for example: "Four Blocks is the best example of a whole-language program masquerading as an SBRR program"[emphasis added]. Moats describes how a good SBRR program 'teaches each component thoroughly, explicitly, and with planned connections to the others. Such programs build in validated assessments of progress so that students who are accelerated and those who need small-group intervention and support are identified and taught accordingly.' The "sheep in wolves clothing" programs fail our neediest students by sharing the following commonalities: teacher modeling (not direct instruction), rely on strategies from the three cueing systems theory, reject systematic decoding, spelling, and grammar instruction, confuse phonemic awareness with phonics, make heavy use of writer's workshop and leveled books, and de-emphasize direct instruction in comprehension strategies.

Several of the blogs I read regularly have also blogged about the release: see Teach Effectively, Joanne Jacobs , and I Speak of Dreams, just announcements, no commentary. I'm eager to see the types of comments that come in. I suspect we'll hear from teachers who use the programs Moats slammed and argue for their 'SBRRness.' Teachers who use some of the "reasonably faithful to SBRR" programs, as described by Moats, (Open Court, Trophies, Reading Street) might have their own opinions about teaching with those programs.

I'd encourage everyone to read the report, and if you're inclined, come back and comment. And while I agree with Moats' recommendations for policymakers at the end of the report, does anyone else agree that they seem disconnected from the report's content?

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