The 4 Steps
Every day that students are in my classroom, they know they have the following Four Steps for homework that night. Every night the parents or guardians of my students must sign the 4 Steps.
I designed the 4 Steps to be consistent, for any grade, and have proven to be EFFECTIVE with NCLB tests.
Step 1. Write a sentence about something that happened to you today.
Step 2. Read your for 20 minutes or more.
Step 3. Write a sentence about one thing that happened in the .
Step 4. Bring your back to class.
For example: (step 1) Jenny gets home and opens her writing binder. She writes about a fascinating language arts lesson she had that day. (step 2) Next, she kicks off her shoes, and reads the climax of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight biting her nails at each turn of the page. (Step 3) She then returns to her binder, and in between sips of soy milk, summarizes the thrilling rescue of Bella. (step 4) She then puts both the binder and her novel in her book bag and pats herself on the back for a job well-done!
Here is what Jenny’s Four Steps would look like if she were at the final Phase of the 4 Step (Phase 6):
Today, September 7, 2010, I had another interesting discussion in language arts, and it was refreshing. Specifically, Mr. Mach poised the question, “What does a hero look like?” and then our class furiously blogged about it for the next 45 minutes. Three people, including Mr. Mach commented about my post about heroes! Today was the best because I learned that I too am a hero, and I felt proud that three people liked my answer. I hope that every student in America is getting such an interesting language arts education.
(OK… OK… perhaps I’m idealizing a little too much writing as a student, but you get the idea.)
(teachers & parents only)
The minimum length of the writing increases each month (or half month, or week depending on the grade and level of your class):
Phase 1: One Topic Summary (TS) that summarizes what the student did and how they enjoyed it.
Phase 2: One TS and a concrete detail (CD), a fact with as much descriptive language as possible about the topic.
Phase 3: One TS, a CD, and a commentary (CM) explaining your opinion on the CD.
Phase 4: Two choices. TS, CD, CD, CM or TS CD, CM, CM
Phase 5: Add a Concluding Summary (CS), a summary of what the reader can learn, gain, or infer by the preceding paragraph in stronger, more emotional words. Thus, the two possible options: TS, CD, CD, CM, CS or TS CD, CM, CM, CS.
Phase 6: This point forward, students maintain the minimum length of writing, but the focus now shifts to troubleshooting advanced writing problems (complex sentences, clarity, vivid vocabulary, etc.)
The ease, consistency, and effectiveness of the Four Steps is something I passionately believe in. Please contact me if you would like me to help clarify or help brainstorm with you how to make it work for your class.
- Returning students that have previously used the Four Steps start automatically on Phase 6.
- The they read is entirely up the the student. Basically, anything with words, that students can physically bring to class is allowed (e.g. comic books, magazines, the Bible)
- The terms TS, CD, CM, CS and their respective color coordination all come from the Jane Schaffer Writing Method. Click here for the Wikipedia entry on this method, and click the following for a introductory PowerPoint: JaneSchafferParagraphWriting-Cinderella
- I made up the term and the idea of the Four Steps so please cite me if you use them.
© 2010 David Mach