At The Branch School we believe learning is collaborative. Collaboration helps children to value and respect themselves and others. It allows them to learn important social skills, build trust and gain confidence. They are able to learn from each other and develop valuable leadership skills. They challenge themselves and others as they learn and grow, thus gaining the desire to express themselves and share what they know.
Children at The Branch School trust each other. They see and interact happily across multiple grade levels at recess, at lunch, and during before-school and after-school care. During these unstructured times emphasis is placed on kindness, respect and sharing. Students are expected to develop these skills and become leaders. Caring for their fellow students becomes a natural part of school life.
What happens when our students transfer these developing life skills into a more formal learning situation is remarkable. Secret smiles and little waves are exchanged. The youngest students will often run to greet their older friend and drag them to sit next to them or to show off their latest art creation. Reading buddies is one of the programs at The Branch School where this interaction is encouraged. Who would not want to have their playground friend – the fastest runner on campus – read to them or help them sound out words? When the older child reads to the younger child, rapt attention is payed to every detail of the experience. Younger students will beg to read to their older friend to show them how their skills have improved and to be allowed to imitate the tone, emphasis, and expression of their buddy. Even a child of three years can “read” a favorite book or a book that has just been read to them. Exuberant learning is taking place.
Our students listen to and respond to the ideas that each is sharing, being respectful, caring and kind. The older student is able to reinforce contextual word meaning and storyline while nurturing the confidence that comes from being looked up to for their expertise. The younger student gains confidence because an older peer cares about their thoughts and benefits further by collecting foundational building blocks for an understanding of collaboration. The children are often modeling each other as well as their instructors: asking questions, patiently listening, probing and exploring ideas. Enthusiasm for reading becomes contagious and all the students eagerly look forward to their time together in the classroom.
Reading buddies is a highly valued part of the curriculum at The Branch School. The children involved are gaining life skills as they are able to practice public speaking on a one-to-one basis and gaining confidence. The faculty at The Branch School has found that this confidence naturally transfers to larger audiences. Students want to share what they are learning and eagerly invite other classes as well as parents and administrators into the classroom to see final presentations of projects or reports. This starts as young as our PK3 class, sharing presentations on dinosaurs, to our 1st graders, sharing research on their class pet, a ball python, to our 3rd graders reporting on their inventions, all the way up to our graduating 8th graders’ Capstone presentations, the culmination of a year-long research project. Collaborative learning comes in many shapes and sizes. Reading Buddies at The Branch School is a building block for our students to learn how to work and learn together. Please schedule a tour soon to see if you can catch our students working, learning and growing together.