Sunday, March 15, 2015

Buddy Reading and Writing Activities

Building a strong community between groups at school can be done by pairing younger students with older students. At our school, our kinders have fourth grade Reading Buddies. Once a week, on Fridays, the fourth graders come to our room to work with our students. It is wonderful because both groups look forward to this time immensely. Since they started to work together, they now look for each other outside of the classroom (like at lunch or recess) as well. They love to be together and are disappointed to miss each other on scheduled days off.

When an older student gets to work with a younger student, it increases the confidence of the older student and both students feel an immediate sense of value in their school. The younger students look up to the older students and are thrilled to see them in passing on campus or at school events held outside of school hours. The parents feel their child is more engaged in the school when they have a meaningful connection to other students.

Ten years ago, as a new teacher, I was told I had fourth grade buddies and that I needed to plan something for them to do with each other once a week, for a half hour. I was a bit intimidated. I thought, it is hard enough to engage 24 little five year olds, how was I going to do it for those 24 five year olds, plus about the same amount of fourth graders? I found out that it doesn't have to be too complicated and no matter what you try, it will benefit all students.

The older students read the younger student's library books to them. They also read their weekly phonics books to them. The younger students treat their buddies just like their parents and lean all over them while being read to. When they read the little phonics books, here is a list of ideas I give to them to go over. I encourage the older students to see if the younger students can read any of the words on their own. Each student is given a small white board, marker, and wipe to do activities with their book.

Extension Ideas for Reading Groups

*Read the story through once more. Allow students to read different pages than they did the first time.
* Think of a comprehension question you can ask for each page.
* Discuss vocabulary on each page. Don’t assume children know the meanings of each word.
* Look at each word. Have them tell you how many sounds are in a word.
* Look at each sentence. Have them tell you how many words are in a sentence.
* Focus on punctuation. Have them identify when they see a period or question mark. Discuss what purpose each one serves.
* Look at each sentence. Focus on where the spacing between words is. Have them identify the space.
* Choose a word from the story and write it on your whiteboard. Have them identify what letters are vowels and what sound that vowel makes. Repeat with consonants.
* Use the whiteboard to play “Hangman” with words from the story.
* Use the whiteboard to play “Guess the Missing Letter” game with words from the story. You write a word, but leave out one or two letters.
* Focus on blending in words. You write a word from the story on the whiteboard. Touch and say the sound for each letter slowly. Run the marker under the word slowly and have them read the words slowly. Then run the marker under the word and have them read it faster.
* Pick a word from the story and write it on the whiteboard. See how many real words they can think of that rhyme with that word. Keep a tally on the top of the whiteboard.
* Allow them to choose a different ending for the book. What do they wished happened in the end of the story? Compare how that would be different from the real ending of the book.
* Discuss whether the story is fact or fiction. Could it really happen? What parts of the story could really happen? What parts could not?

Sometimes, we do hands-on reading and spelling activities with playdoh or paint. You should see the kids when we do this. I can't tell who gets more excited, the kinders or the fourth graders. I I give them each a ball of playdough to use with their buddies. 

I give them a word family list. I tell them that the ball of playdough represents one word at a time. They teach the kinder buddy how to break the word into individual sounds by pinching a piece of playdough for each sound. They line the sounds up on their desk. After breaking the pieces apart, they poke their finger into each piece and say the sound for that piece of playdough. 

For example: with the word "at", they get one ball of dough, but break it into two separate pieces to represent the two sounds /a/ and /t/. 

If the word has three sounds, they would break the playdough into three sounds.

Another fun activity we have done is to have the older buddies give the younger buddies a finger paint spelling "test". All words on our word wall are words that my students have been exposed to and should be able to spell by themselves at this point in the school year. Students spread finger paint all over their paper. The older buddies choose and say a word from our word wall. The younger student spells that word by unblending the word into individual sounds and "writing" those right onto the finger paint paper. If they make a mistake, they just rub it out and try again. If they get it correct, they rub it out and do another one.   

The older students loved this so much that one said on her way out the door, "I vote that we write our next essay using this method!"

If your school uses "Buddies", I would love to hear about what they do together at your school!

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