Educator Resource: Lower School Reading Buddies Program Goes Remote

Two students with headphones on and at their laptops participating in remote reading buddies activity.
Emily Storms

Reading Buddies was a regular activity for KLS Lower School students before the pandemic. Teachers coordinated times for the oldest Lower School students to read aloud to the youngest Lower School students each week. The students loved the chance to read together, and it allowed older students a chance to model reading fluency for younger students. 

IL1 ELA Specialist Sharifa Khan organized Reading Buddies for her students during in-person learning. 

“The reading buddies program gives the older student the chance to model reading fluency and pulls in younger students through comprehension questions,” Sharifa said. “Older students get the chance to model strategies like making text-to-self connections for younger students, and then younger students get to try the strategies for themselves.”  

When KLS went remote due to the pandemic, reading buddies temporarily fell from the schedule during the transition. Khan was delighted when the IL1 Parent Association representatives reached out to her this fall with an offer to help organize a remote version of reading buddies. 

Students on Zoom with the teacher doing the reading buddies activity.

Sharifa coordinated with IL2 and IL3 advisors to find a time to schedule weekly sessions for reading buddies to meet. She also creates comprehension questions for each week’s book. The IL1 Parent Association Reps coordinate e-book access and put the week’s comprehension questions in a slideshow format to make it easier for students to work together remotely. 

Scheduling a time that worked in all the students’ packed schedules was the hardest part of Remote Reading Buddies set-up. It took a bit to coordinate, but now all IL1 students have a reading buddy they meet with remotely each week. Khan says she can already see the benefits for her young readers. 

“Students look forward to reading with their buddies every week,” Sharifa said. “It's great to see students bond and create friendships around a love for reading and books.” 

My ELA 3 students are some of the older ones serving as reading mentors to Sharifa's students, and I’ve noticed the same excitement in them. They are thrilled to get to be the mentors and connect with a younger student each week. In addition to the social-emotional benefit of connecting our Lower School community, I love that my students are also getting extra time to practice their oral reading fluency each week. A win all around! 

Khan has a few tips for other educators looking to launch their own version of Remote Reading Buddies. 

  1. Think about book access. Think about what you want students to read. If possible, try using an e-book that all students can see. Older students can share their screen as they read the e-book aloud, which makes it easier for younger students to follow along over Zoom. Having the comprehension questions ready in a slideshow format has worked well for the remote format. 
  2. Start in one Zoom room. Khan starts reading buddies by having all the students come to her personal Zoom meeting room. She give the older students the link with the e-book and comprehension questions in the main room before sending them into breakout rooms with their buddy. Khan pops between breakout rooms to check in as the students read to one another. 
  3. Be flexible. Khan’s most important tip? “Be flexible with expectations!” The rollout of remote reading buddies might not go perfectly, but no matter what, students are getting the opportunity to build a new connection and continue developing their love of reading. 

 

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