Children pairing up and learning how to write

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Jordan Lichnovsky doesn't fashion himself a teacher -- not yet, anyhow.

But the Soda Creek Elementary School fourth-grader has developed an appreciation for helping others learn, namely Madeline McPeak, his kindergarten buddy.

Jordan and Madeline met this fall through a collaborative program between Deirdre Mewborn's fourth-grade class and Sharon Clementson's kindergarten class.

The focus of the buddy program is writing; helping the kindergartners take their first steps toward mastering written language and solidifying the writing progress the fourth-graders have made since their kindergarten days.

"It's good for the older kids to have to stop and really think about how to explain it to the younger kids," Clementson said Tuesday, when the two classes met for the third time this school year. "For the kindergartners, it's great modeling."

Kindergartners are expected to be able to write stories three or four sentences long by the end of the year. But to reach that level, the students must follow the typical learning progression, Clementson said.

"We learn oral language before we learn to write," she said.

With a solid understanding of oral language, kindergartners can begin to comprehend written language. Learning to write often begins through modeling, where the kindergartners watch others write letters and words and copy those letters and words on their own.

On Tuesday, Clementson's kindergarten students wrote for their older buddies for the first time. On large sheets of lined paper affixed to paper Santa Clauses the students made, the kindergartners and their fourth-grade mentors scrawled sentences such as, "Santa has a big puffy ball on his hat," and "Santa's beard is so long it touches his feet."

"Do you think you can copy this?" Jordan asked Madeline, pointing to a sentence he had written. "I bet you can."

Letter by letter, with some help from Jordan, Madeline slowly penciled the sentence herself.

Two weeks ago, the buddies wrote letters to Santa Claus, with the fourth-graders jotting down what the kindergartners dictated.

"The idea is that by the end of the year, the kindergartners do all the writing, just with assistance from the fourth-graders," Clementson said.

Class partnerships are beneficial to teachers, too. Pairing younger students with capable older students provides one-on-one instruction and tutoring for the kindergarten students, creating a more efficient learning process, Clementson said.

But the kindergartners aren't the only ones who gain from the collaboration, the teachers said.

"I think it helps the fourth-graders realize how far they've come," Mewborn said. The partnering process encourages the fourth-graders to assume leadership roles, something fourth-graders aren't asked to do very often.

It's a role many appeared to enjoy.

"I like working with little kids," fourth-grader Kajsa Lindgren said as she helped her buddy, kindergartner Brooke Banning.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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