A Different Approach to Reading Buddies

In the past I have always partnered up my students with another class and once a week we did “reading buddies”. Students would read with their buddy and it was wonderful.

However, this year I wanted to put all the decision making in the hands of my students and I realized that if I organized reading buddies with another class I was making that decision for them.

So I took a different approach this year…

First, I emailed all of our Pre-K, KG1, KG2 and Grade 1 teachers to who would be interested in having a Grade 4 reading buddy come read with their students. I had about 2-3 teachers from each grade level sign up.

Then, I shared my vision with my students and offered an optional meeting for those students who were interested in being reading buddies this year. About 3/4 of my students attended.

At that point I asked my students which grade they would be most interested working with and matched them up with a teacher. Then I provided each student with their reading buddy teacher’s email address. The students did an amazing job consulting our schedule in order to send an email with possible dates and times.

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Students were clear about how many times they would be willing to come each week. Some students chose once a week, others chose every day. Then they sent of their emails and excitedly waited for a response!

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Once students heard back from the teachers they solidified dates and times. Students have independantly kept track of their scheduled dates and times and done a wonderful job emailing the teacher if a conflict comes up and they are unable to make it.

Now reading buddies is up and running and it has been awesome so far! Sometimes they read to one or two students, sometimes they listen to a younger student reading to them and sometimes they read to the whole class!

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Here are my reflections on this process so far:

  • emailing the teachers provided an amazing authentic opportunity for functional writing
  • students are practicing their fluency and expression when reading to their buddies
  • students are developing their confidence as readers
  •  students are developing empathy and compassion by working with younger children
  • students are developing the organization and time management skills by making and keeping scheduled appointments
  • students are loving every minute of it!

I look forward to watching this progress grow and change as the year unfolds. I’m hoping word will spread and more Grade 4 students will want to become reading buddies and more early year’s teachers will want to host Grade 4 reading buddies!

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Less Marking. More Documenting.

A few weeks ago I shared my plan to inquire into my students as people and document what I discovered about them. Then I wondered why stop there?  So drawing inspiration from early year educators, I decided this year to also dedicate time and energy to looking for and documenting learning.

To make this happen, I started the year with a Google Sheet that had all of the students’ names and a tab for the Learner Profile, attitudes, ATL skills, UOI concepts, Literacy and Math.

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Throughout the week I would add to it when I noticed evidence of something. This could be at recess, while students were playing, while students were setting up the classroom… anytime, anywhere!

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I tried to pay close attention to what students were saying and asking before, during and after our read alouds or when we were testing out our new classroom library for fun…

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I analyzed any writing samples I came across – report cards I asked them to write for me, feedback forms about setting up the classroom, thinking post-it notes, letters they wrote to me…

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Of course there were days where I didn’t have the time or opportunity to sit down and reflect on what I had seen or heard throughout the day, so at the end of the week I scrolled through the pictures I had taken which helped to jog my memory of things I may have forgotten.

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The best part is that if you asked my students if we did any “school work” this week they would all say “no!”. Yet because I was looking for learning in anything and everything I learned so much already about their attributes, attitudes, approaches to learning, understanding of concepts, reading, writing and math skills.

This is a practice I hope to continue throughout the year, and eventually invite the students to participate in too!

If it works for KG teachers… why not Grade 4 teachers?