Do you have a reading buddies program in your school? I know some teachers avoid the concept due to scheduling hurdles, but the benefits for both groups of students are substantial. Here are some reasons to implement reading buddies into your middle school ELA schedule.
Reason #1: Fluency Practice for BIG KIDS
Read alouds and listening to same-age peers reading is not always a favorite of my students, especially if they are or are paired with a struggling reader. However, many of my students still require fluency practice to enhance their abilities as readers of text. Reading to a younger student is far less intimidating. Reading buddies provide a chance to read aloud without feeling stressed about their own abilities as successful readers.
While the goal is to read effectively and fluently, one doesn’t become better without practice. It is not always easy to incorporate read aloud opportunities on a regular basis. Making time for a reading buddies program gives your middle school students the perfect audience to work on their reading without judgment or over-correcting.
Reason #2: Weekly Motivation
You will be surprised at how excited your big kids get in anticipation of their buddy days. I’ve taught at schools where this program has run for decades, and the older kids remember their experiences from kindergarten and first grade. Knowing they are now the “big” buddy is a welcomed responsibility. Scheduling conflicts will come up in certain weeks, and you can see the disappointment on their faces.
Your students will look forward to this scheduled time each week. Some will even go out of their way to bring in special reading selections for their young friend. Knowing that we have a scheduled day of the week and time gives them something to look forward to each week.
Reason #3: Connectivity to School
We know students come to school each day because they HAVE to, but I want my students to come to school because they love what is happening in our classroom and feel connected to their learning. In addition to the other exciting things taking place each day, reading buddy time gives my students even more reason to LOVE their time at school and a fulfilling purpose as a student leader. By spending time each week with another person that is looking just as forward to this time with them, it makes both groups of students feel that much more connected to their school experience.
Reason #4: Having Accountability to Others
Typically, we meet our reading buddies each week until the end of the school year. Knowing this event will take place and having this time together, my middle schoolers and their kindergarten buddies will form an unforgettable bond. From here on out, they will spot each other in the building, give friendly waves and sweet hugs, and they will look forward to their time together each week.
Reason #5: Teacher Perspective
I love getting to see my students take on the role of the teacher when they are working with their preschool reading buddies. Watching them switch roles from hardworking student to engaging “teacher” is truly a thrill to see. If you are in need of a fresh perspective on your students, giving them the opportunity to work with little people will give you that newfound appreciation for the thoughtful and genuine individuals they are. Any frustrations you have ever had will be redeemed through their sweet actions with their buddies.
I know that instructional time is precious and already bursting at the seams, but I can assure you that 15 minutes a week taken from your jam-packed schedule will be an incredible and memorable use of your students’ time.
If you have ever wondered if implementing reading buddies is a wise use of instructional time and something you should work into your already overloaded schedule, the answer is ABSOLUTELY!