Younger, older students team up for learning, fun

From left, Sophia S., Molly E., Taryn J., Devin G., Levi M., and Henry M. read together in the hall at Tahoma Elementary.
From left, Sophia S., Molly E., Taryn J., Devin G., Levi M., and Henry M. read together in the hall at Tahoma Elementary.

First- and fifth-grade students from Marion Heil and Julie Rude’s classes at Tahoma Elementary School have been teaming up to read together.

“We wanted to tap into the fifth-graders’ abilities and skills as both readers and leaders,” Heil said. “They get to share their joy of reading aloud to an excited, eager first-grader. The first-graders get to read their own books aloud to helpful, kind fifth-graders. It’s a great chance for both groups of kids to grow. … It is pretty sweet to see the kids pair up and become engrossed in their books.”

Students in Marion Heil’s first-grade class and Julie Rude’s fifth-grade class worked together Monday on a fun project to create snowmen. The two classes have been partnering to read together throughout the school year. Above, first-grader Peyton S. and fifth-grader Laura S. work together to decorate their snowmen.

The two classes got together for a fun activity. When the teachers asked them to pair up, the older Cubs greeted their younger counterparts with high-fives and hugs. The students worked in pairs to create snowmen out of socks, stuffing material, and fun decorative items. Throughout the room, students helped one another, and many fifth-graders complimented and encouraged their partner with comments such as “Good job!”

After break, they get together again to write stories about their adventures.

“The reading partnership has been a great experience for my fifth-graders,” Rude said. “They get so excited when they check the schedule and see that it’s the day to read with their ‘buddies.'”

The pairing is a great way for the older students to utilize their Community Contributor skills, while also learning patience and empathy, she explained.

“Before meeting with the first-graders, we thought of examples from our own lives when we were learning something new or when something was challenging, to help us empathize with these beginning readers,” Rude said. “When we meet, I often overhear my students offering encouraging words to their first-grade buddies as they listen to them read.”

The older students take their position as role models seriously, she said, and they understand that the first-graders will see them around campus and follow their example.

“Beyond the skills both are gaining, it’s also just fun to see the connections between them grow,” Rude said. “When you see a little first-grader cozied up to a fifth-grade buddy sharing a book, it’s pretty heart-warming!”