In the second grade class, we recently started a writing unit on biographies. Students chose an African American figure that they wanted to learn more about. I gave students texts about the person they chose, so that research could begin. There are many good biographies written on a second grade level, but they are not easy to find. I reserved sources from the public library, found appropriate passages online, and printed books from our reading website. Even with my careful selection of texts, some students found it challenging to read the texts they were given—or to read and take notes at the same time. This is where our buddies in the middle school class came to save the day.
Students from the fifth and sixth grade class joined us in our research. Each second grader chose a source that they had been struggling with. For the next twenty minutes, a fifth or sixth grader read the text aloud to their second grade buddy, so the younger student could really focus on absorbing the content, locating important information, and taking notes. Without having to bear the responsibility to decode, comprehend, synthesize, and produce short summaries in the form of an outline, the second graders were freer to truly understand the content, and produce more succinct and meaningful notes on the information. The younger students were very grateful for the help reading their sources; I could previously only help one or two students a day, but this collaborative approach allowed all nine second graders to receive one-on-one attention.
The second graders were not the only students that benefited from this activity. The middle schoolers helped the younger students to determine whether or not information they read was a main idea or detail—a skill they had been working on in their own Language Arts class. When the older students lined up at the end of our buddies session, they said they were tired from the hard work they had done! And they didn’t say so, but I think they were proud too!