This year our campus is trying out the concept of buddy classes. I have done this at my previous campus and really loved it so I was very excited to take part again. As a kindergarten teacher my class has a 3rd grade buddy class. As we experiment this year, there are not a lot of parameters. We are all about trying different things out. I have days where a few of our 3rd grade buddies come to our room to help out. This is usually during a time when they have completed the work in their room. Depending on what we are doing in my room they either help in a student center, or pull kids and read with them. My kids love the 1-on-1 attention from an older student! We have also gotten together whole class to do reading buddies. During this time each student has a reading buddy that remains the same throughout the year. My kinder kiddos read all of their sight word books to the buddy first, then the 3rd grader can read a book to their buddy. Having been on both sides of the buddy system I have seen it build self-confidence in all kids involved. Some of my favorite buddy memories were as a 3rd grade teacher watching my lower readers feel proud when helping their buddy learn something new! That pride and self-confidence then transfers into their own work. Last, we have gotten together for some fun and special projects. The day before Thanksgiving we joined our buddy class and made turkey-callers! That was fun!!!
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We also do little things for our buddy class. For example, my students created elves for their buddies and we decorated their door. We will also do some joint writing projects as my kinder kids write letters to Santa. The 3rd graders will become honorary elves to help Santa respond to those letters since he is so busy in the North Pole right now! In the spring, we will also support and encourage them as state testing approaches.
One of my favorite parts of the buddy system is the sense of community it develops on campus. My students get so excited when they see their buddies in the hallway! They really look-up to the older kids and now there are older kids that recognize them and call them by name.
If you have never tried something like this I would encourage you to do so. It doesn't take an "official" program. Just find a teacher at a different level than you and see if you can buddy up. You do as little as just reading together once a month, to tackling other projects too! It really is fun for all!
If you have participated in a buddy class program, I'd love to know some of the things you have done that have worked well!