- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - A.J. Holeman thought it would be great idea for the big kids to help the little kids with their reading at Enterprise School.

The way they do that is to write stories for the younger students using sight and spelling words the little kids are learning.

“We think about what they like, and we look up pictures or draw pictures and we put them in Book Creator and add our own words to it,” said A.J., 12. “It makes me smarter, and it’s kind of like a pen pal. You get to know more about the younger people in your school and it gives you a new friend to talk to.”

“I think it does help me, and I do like his books. I think he does a great job,” said Joaquin Freeman, 6, A.J.’s first-grade buddy. “He actually does make good books.”

The reading buddies program pairs up first- and second-grade students with sixth-grade students once a week.

“One of our goals is to increase reading levels so at least 50 percent of the kids are reading at grade level,” said first- and second-grade teacher Ashley Lofland. “So we partnered up the little kids with the bigger kids as reading buddies once a week.

“They work on different reading strategies, they have all the sight words the kids know and don’t know and their spelling words so they can work on those with them, to increase fluency, reading confidence and reading comprehension.”

The classrooms are at opposite ends of the building, so the little ones wouldn’t normally encounter the sixth-graders during the day other than passing in the hallway. Now that they’re buddies, the little ones seek out their older schoolmates and want to talk to them, Lofland said. They’ve formed friendships they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

It also helps the older students with their own reading, said Temethia Joyner, the sixth-grade teacher. They’re aware of their influence with the little ones, and they want to teach them well, so they’re more careful of their sentence structure, and verb/subject agreement and in fact, one of her students only recently realized he wasn’t doing those things in his own writing and corrected it.

“That’s what the big kids are pulling out of it, that and the relationships,” Joyner said.

The books are themed to match whatever the students are talking about in the building. Right now, they’re talking about bullying, so the books this week were focused on how to handle that situation.

“We kind of take whatever issues are going on in the classroom and that’s what they write about,” Joyner said.

One of the practices is “echo reading,” in which the older child reads a sentence to show the younger one how it’s supposed to sound, and the younger child repeats the same sentence. That helps build reading fluency, because the younger reader learns how words are supposed to flow together when reading aloud.

“You have to know their reading level, and it’s really hard, because we’re used to writing more complex sentences for our teacher and you have to make simple sentences and spread them out on the pages,” Isabel said.

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2lK447L

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com


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