My students began asking me about little buddies within the first few weeks of school. What they didn’t understand is that I was also asking. I was new and it seemed that there were no primary classes not yet matched. The one teacher without a buddy class was reluctant. He asked for some time. One thing became another, on and on, as it goes in schools. Finally, I got a little creative and a titch manipulative. Okay, quite manipulative – with one good idea. I had my class write persuasive letters to the Grade 1 teacher about why we should be buddy classes. How could he resist a stack of heartfelt pleas from my Grade 4 and 5 students? Please? Please? Please!
We had our second session today and everyone is more than happy. My students are delighted and energized. The younger students are excited and intrigued. The staff attached to the Grade 1 class got 30 minutes to breathe today as they watched everyone engaged and well cared for. I confirmed what I have known for years. Buddy reading across grade levels is a magical thing.
Here are some of the things I observe:
- Reluctant readers are often not reluctant connectors. It’s as much about the interactions as it is about the reading.
- All kinds of books appeal to all kinds of kids. If your room is full of great books, not much can go wrong.
- Sharing favourite characters is much superior to making small talk on route to a reading relationship. Who doesn’t love Piggie and Gerald?
- A book in the middle removes the awkward of meeting someone new. As the story pulls you in, you are naturally pulled together.
- Laughter is contagious. Distinct partners can become one massive mob when a book and a reader draw everyone in.
- Children figure out the “release of responsibility” thing organically. My readers model and read and suddenly the little reader has taken over. The older child knows just when to shift back.
- Patience is a gift. Time is a gift. Attention is a gift. Children are immensely generous.
- Behaviours don’t arise between buddies, behaviours surface when a buddy is absent. Everyone wants to connect and to matter. *
- Picture books prompt discussion. Buddy reading makes room for this talk to happen.
- Being the teacher for those few moments is pretty spectacular. Allowing yourself to also be the learner makes it even more so.
- Sharing a positive experience with someone else is a high. There is a lot of floating as everyone drifts back to the rest of their days.
- The natural kid appeal between children is incredible to watch.
Did I mention that part of the magic is about all that buddy reading teaches us if we are ready to watch and observe?
* My job? Knowing which buddies can share and which buddy can be shared so that nobody feels left out if there is an absence.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.