Sacred Heart Buddy System incorporates iPads

Posted October 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm

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By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

With grades kindergarten through sixth all coming together at Sacred Heart School here in Monticello, the school started a program called the Buddy System. This is nothing new to the school, but the way they utilize the program within the classrooms has begun to change due to technology.

The Buddy System pairs the younger and older grades together in an effort to have the older kids teach younger ones and the younger ones to learn from their older peers. Teachers in corresponding grades gets together a few times a month to plan activities both the grades can do.

When students attend Mass during the school day, they pair up with their younger buddy and become an example of how to behave during Mass.

“They become role models at Mass,” said Jill Williams, second grade teacher.

It’s a way the older kids can take on leadership roles and mentor the younger students.

“It’s a win/win situation for everyone,” said Williams.

Recently, the second graders in Williams’ class and kindergartners in Sue O’Rourke’s class came together for reading activities using an iPad. The Booster Club at Sacred Heart purchased iPads, one for each grade level.

“It allows the second grade to hone in on their reading skills for a captive audience,” said Williams, as the second graders read to the kindergartners.

“We can turn the sound off and read aloud,” said sixth-grade teacher Abby Morales.

Teachers can download a wide array of educational applications (or apps) to use with multiple subjects: math, reading, etc. Williams said with the reading apps, students have phonics lessons, can listen to stories and follow along with the words on the screen or just read the words themselves. Teacher Katie Stoll, fourth grade, said she used the iPad for math games and reviewing math facts such as addition and multiplication. Morales said she takes her students through circumference lessons, having the ability to showcase the meaning visually.

“There are things we can do with the iPad that we can’t with the overhead,” said Morales of the new technology.

Morales also uses her class iPad to reward her students, allowing them time to play on the iPad.

“They love it!” said Morales.

The teachers also share their iPads when needed, should one grade level have a lesson that requires multiple hands-on learning.

Williams said her class was learning about sequoia trees, so she displayed images of sequoias on the iPad and was able to show them examples. With the iPads portable, teachers can come down to the students’ level.

Downloading different apps, teachers can also adapt the programs for students’ learning abilities.

While this is just one way the school puts the Buddy System to work, the idea is to allow the students to come together for educational purposes.

“The younger students look up to the older ones,” said Morales. “They admire them.”

Stoll said it gives different age groups of students to interact with one another and work on team building. With doing art projects, it’s the older ones teaching the younger students how to accomplish something.

Jo Ellen Schlarmann, school secretary and member of the school’s booster club, said thanks to successful fundraisers, the booster club was able to donate all of the iPads to the classrooms.

“It helps bring more technology to the classrooms,” explained Schlarmann.

“Students really are not inhibited by this technology,” noted Williams.

The school’s major fundraiser is the annual holiday gala. Recently, Darrell’s A Family Tradition held a fundraiser for the school, donating restaurant proceeds to the school.

“We have such great community support,” said Schlarmann.

PHOTO: Sacred Heart second-grader Emma Althoff (middle) works with her Buddy System peers Haili Schlarmann and Cadence Olson, both in kindergarten. The girls use iPads donated by the Sacred Heart Booster Club and practice reading and following along with the words on the screen. (Photo submitted)