Thursday, September 5, 2013

Buddies! Bringing second and fifth graders together to make learning happen!

We had our first buddy session today.  My fifth graders were so excited to meet their second grade buddies.  Our two buddy classes get together roughly once or twice each month to work on a social, academic, or just fun activity.  This year, my buddy teacher and I decided to try to infuse more academics into our buddy sessions.  Since we both are huge believers in The Writing Workshop, we're going to place a heavy focus on writing.  However, today was all about getting to know each other and fun!  Last week, my second grade buddy teacher, Janet, and I met to pair our students.  We carefully paired our year-long buddy partnerships based on student comfort, personality, and behavior styles.

When our second grade buddies arrived at our classroom door, Janet called out names to place them with the prearranged fifth grader in my class.  When they first met, Janet and I guided them in making eye contact, shaking hands, and giving a polite greeting.  Some of the second graders were so excited to see the large bean bags in the classroom  that they couldn't contain their excitement and impulsiveness.  Prior to their arrival, I coached my fifth graders in how to help direct their second grade buddies to stay focused on the tasks at hand.  It was great to see my fifth graders easily slide into their leadership roles!

The first buddy task:  Learn about each other using a venn diagram.  We discussed the meaning of the
Our teacher-modeled venn diagram
words compare and contrast, and asked our students to try to use the academic language when having their conversations.  Janet and I modeled how to have a conversation and fill out a venn diagram.  Our modeling conversation lasted roughly five minutes or so.  Our students not only observed a conversation rich with questions, wonderings, comparisons, and respectful disagreements, but also they got a huge kick out of Janet and I struggling to find differences. I feel it truly helps students when they get to see and hear teachers thinking out loud.  Modeling the process is such valuable method!

Immediately after we modeled how to make the venn diagrams, we set them off to work independently  for about 25-30 minutes.  Students were also given directions to discuss their writing notebooks as soon as they finished their venn diagrams.  Both of our classes are working on narrative writing, so they used a common language when discussing their writing.  The independent work time was just magic!  Our students were highly engaged, motivated, and engrossed in rich conversations that often fall by the wayside in our busy, standards-packed teaching days.  Plus, little do our students know that we will revisit these venn diagrams in a couple months.  They'll get to add to the venn diagrams and create a project based on their work!  I'm looking forward to seeing where they take it!

A 2nd and 5th grade partnership discussing writing! 

It was fabulous seeing our students use a common language for writing.

Pure engagement!