Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reading Buddies

Hey ya'll!  Are you loving summer as much as I am?!  Let me just tell you.  I had big plans for what I was going to accomplish this summer back on June 3 when my vacation officially started.  Have I touched those plans?  NO.  Not.   At.  All.   My mind is telling me to start, but my body is enjoying these lazy days of summer!  Part of me wants to feel guilty for not starting my long list of things to do, but the other part is telling me to enjoy every last minute and just relax a little.  So that's what I have done.  And, I'm lovin' it!!!!!!
I do want to take a minute away from my book and lounge chair to share with you how I use reading buddies in my classroom.  A couple of years ago I had to do an action research project for one of my Master's classes.  For this project,  I focused my attention on a small group of students in my class who had scored in the red zone for oral reading fluency (ORF).  I wanted to see if this group of students scores would increase if specific interventions were put into place for them.  I tracked their progress using their ORF progress monitoring scores over a 3 month period.  At the end of the project, I was pleased to see that their scores had improved.  I attribute some of this improvement to one specific intervention that I implemented, reading buddies.
I conferenced with the parents of each of the students in my study group.  I didn't meet with them to discuss my study.  I met with them to discuss their child's scores and what those scores meant for that time of the year.  This was a conference I would have had regardless of the study.  During that conference I explained to the parents how important it was for our first graders to become fluent readers.  I also explained to them that I would be sending home specific passages each week for their child to work on to help build that fluency and accuracy.  Now as much as we would like to think that all parents will follow through with our request to complete homework and such at home, I knew that this was not likely going to happen for the majority of the kiddos in this group.  So I enlisted the help of a few "friends." 
These "friends" happened to be other first graders from another class in my building.  A teammate of  mine let me "borrow" a few of her "top" readers every morning.  These students were well behaved, way above grade level in reading, and were great role models for my students.  I had them do the same thing that I had asked the parents of my students to do.  If they weren't getting it home, I KNEW for certain they were getting the extra help every day with their reading buddy.  It was a win-win situation for all of the students.  My students got the extra help that they needed and their buddies got to feel "all special" and stuff for getting to leave their class and come to mine.  As I  mentioned earlier, my students scores did increase over the 3 month period that I conducted the project.  Having that extra "focused" help each day made a big difference with their scores and their confidence.
Since then, I have continued to use reading buddies each year.  Only those reading buddies have been 2nd graders.  I teach at a K2 school, so obviously that's as high as I could go.  After our winter benchmarking, I look at my class scores and determine which students would benefit from having a buddy.  Then I contact a 2nd grade teacher to find out if they are willing to participate.  I leave it up to the teacher to decide who they are going to choose as reading buddies.  The ones that are chosen are the ones who are reading way above grade level and can be trusted to take the job seriously.  I have not had any issues whatsoever using reading buddies in my class.  The 2nd graders that I have had have worked very hard and have done exactly what I have asked them to do. 
To get started, here is what I typically do.  First, I hold an orientation with my reading buddies.  I explain to them what I want them to do and how I want them to do it.  I go over my expectations for them and their "friend" they will be working with.  I want them to know that this is serious business, no time for playing around.  If they are having a problem with their friend, then they need to let me know immediately.  I then show them the basket where I keep the materials that they will be using.  I take gallon size ziplock bags and label them with the names of the students that have reading buddies.  In the bag I  place wordlists, fast phrases, and decodable text that I want my students to work on during the week.  Each bag could contain different materials depending on the needs of that particular student and I change the materials out weekly. Typically I have my reading buddies come in first thing in the morning.  When they come in, they get the bag and I assign a place for them to go work.  Easy enough.  As I'm checking folders and monitoring morning work, I can keep an eye out on the reading buddies.  I have to tell you that so far I haven't had any issues with my  buddies at all.  They come in and they get started.  It melts my heart to see them working with my kiddos and really taking an interest in helping them out.  Not to mention that my kiddos get to see what 2nd graders are like and what the expectation for them will be as 2nd graders themselves. 

When they are finished working, they meet with me and let me know how things went.  I ask them a few standard questions and then send them back to class.  I work at a PBIS school, so I pay them a pelican buck each day for their service!  This past year I had several boys as buddies. This worked out perfect because I had several boys who needed that extra help with reading.  My boys responded so well and really did make great improvements with their reading.  Now I will also tell you, that the girls I had this year were pretty fabulous too.  They took their job seriously and would let me know if their friend wasn't working up to par!  They were definitely little teachers in the making!
I love using reading buddies in my class for so many reasons.  It's easy to manage and I get to monitor how the buddies are working together.  If you've got some kiddos that need some extra support, consider giving it a  try yourself.  Whether you use students from your own class or students from another grade, you will find that it's such a big boost of confidence and responsibility for all that are involved!
Now, back to my book and lounge chair!
Happy Summer Y'all!

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