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Learning with a buddy
February 07, 2009, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Nine-year-old Rachel reads a Curious George book to 4-year-old Madeleine on Thursday morning at the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City.

Four-year-olds gathered in the center of their Foster City classroom curled up with their heads toward the ground hiding as their older buddies entered the room.

"Where are they?” one fourth grade student asked out loud as the group slowly entered the preschool classroom at the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School Thursday morning.

The 9-year-olds play along for a moment before finding one to two special younger children — their reading buddies. This year, the pairs of children gathered once a month to work together. The gathering is at the beginning of the month according to the Hebrew calendar, which follows lunar rather than solar cycles.

In Hebrew a month is called a chodesh, which means both month and renewal.

"As the moon has obvious phases and changes, we too can create changes, make a difference and help when needed,” said Judaic studies teacher Kaylee Frager.

Frager partnered with Shiela Marx’s preschool class, the monkey class, at the beginning of this year. The experience allows the fourth grade students to be leaders while reading aloud to their younger counterparts. Although each visit begins with reading, it often ends with some other activity like playing Duck, Duck, Goose, putting together a puzzle or connecting Legos.

"Fourth grade students like telling others what to do,” Frager said with a smile. In this environment, students can harness that desire to lead while learning to do it in a constructive and positive manner, she said.

Both groups of children get excited at the opportunity to meet with their buddy.

Marx described excited 4-year-olds dancing around a class room in anticipation. Working together on other projects is just as important as reading, said Marx.

One big buddy was helping their younger buddy put together a puzzle, for example. The youngster couldn’t get that far on the project alone, she said.

Each of the children gave different reasons for enjoying the monthly partnership.

Nine-year-old Alyssa, who has two partners, enjoys simply working with smaller people, literally.

"All the little people are so cute. I’m the shortest person in my grade. It’s nice to work with someone shorter,” she said with a smile.

Hannah, one of Alyssa’s buddies, enjoys hearing Winnie the Pooh books. She also likes that Alyssa remembers her.

Nine-year-old Charlie spent time reading a book about monkeys to 4-year-old Ben last week. Ben said animal books are his favorite. Along with the printed words, the boys practiced their monkey noises.

Rachel, 9, likes just seeing her buddy Madeleine, 4.

"I like talking with her. She’s always so funny,” Rachel said.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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