Big and Little Buddies
Last year I had 30 minutes per week to run a “Study Buddies” session with big and little buddies at my school. Here’s how it went and a few tips/tricks if you are thinking about doing something similar in your school.
The Set Up
When I did this mini-class, the little buddies ranged in age from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. The big kids were 2nd through 4th graders (yes, I had to use some 2nd graders as big buddies and some as little buddies due to the unequal numbers of big and little kids). Ideally you would set this up between your classroom and another classroom. I think that a 3-4 grade-level difference makes the most sense…I had a few advanced Kinders who gave their 2nd grade counterparts a run for their money!
I strategically paired the big and little kids together. In my situation, I kept the same gender together whenever possible. I think that doing so made the little buddies feel more comfortable, but you know your students best so do what you think will work.
I had a major sit down with the big buddies prior to Day 1. We talked about behavioral expectations, how their little buddies would look up to them, etc. It was amazing how seriously they took their roles as big buddies. We went over everything from how they should modeling good listening skills to how they should introduce themselves at the first meeting.
Day #1 – The First Meeting
I wanted to create a fun, “get to know” you type of activity for the buddies to complete together, so I created this free Big Buddy/Little Buddy Interview. The big buddies interviewed the little buddies and it was just about the cutest thing ever. This was a great activity, and since I knew different groups were going to finish at different times, I had given the big buddies a few suggestions for what to do if they finished early (create their own interview questions, draw on the back of their sheets, teach/play tic-tac-toe or “boxes” with their little buddies, etc. ). I collected the sheets at the end, but by then they had already served their purpose – the big buddies had learned about their little buddies, made some connections, and built rapport.
All The Other Days
Throughout the semester, the big and little buddies did a lot of different types of activities together. Depending on the nature of your school and program, you may want to stick with a similar theme, such as reading buddies, but I really enjoyed doing different types of activities from week to week. Some of the activities we did, which were very easy prep or no prep included:
- Reading. When students finished, they would be prompted to draw their favorite parts of the story (I selected picture books in advance depending on the reading level of the big buddies) or fill out a story elements graphic organizer. You can also have little buddies to read to their big buddies from their book basket, practice sight-words, complete repeated-timed fluency activities, etc.
- Math games
- Number Battle (also known as “War”)
- Art projects
- We did a variety of seasonal art projects or glyphs. These were relaxing activities and gave the buddies a chance to chat while they were working. Sometimes the big buddies helped the little buddies with things like cutting.
Each day I spent the first 5-10 minutes with the big kids while another teacher read a book or sang some songs with the little guys. I used this time to teach the older kids about whatever task they were going to be doing that day, and to give reminders about expectations and being a good example.
Expert Tip #1
Really spend some time thinking about how you are pairing up the students with their new special friend. You may need a strong student (with some extra training) or two big buddies to pair up with a difficult little buddy.
Expert Tip #2
Don’t stress out if you have an unequal number of big and little students. At several points in the semester we made triads (2 big buddies with 1 little buddy, or vice versa) and it worked out fine. If two little buddies are paired with 1 big buddy, the big buddy may act as more of a facilitator/materials manager while the little buddies played a game. Most activities were easy to adapt to 3 people, so it’s usually no big deal. I did have 1 little guy who switched schools partway through the semester, so I asked if his big buddy would be willing to be a “floater” and he was able to help fill in with student absences.
Student Success Story
I was really worried about pairing up a socially immature 2nd grader (we’ll call him Alex) with his Kindergarten partner. Alex was very difficult at managing his behavior in his own class. After I talked to him about his important role as a big buddy, I couldn’t believe the results. He took his job so seriously and followed all directions to perfection. The look of pride on Alex’s face when I praised him for being a great big buddy was one that I will never forget!
All students, big and little, loved working with their partners and formed great relationships. It gave the big kids a chance to practice their leadership skills and it gave the little guys someone to look up to. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the big/little buddy experience.