Union University
Union University School of Education
Miranda Lindsey works as a student teacher at Medina Elementary

Education Story

10th Year Celebration: Book Buddy Project

November 25, 2008 - Thursday, Nov. 6, Union University preservice teachers in Instructional Design (I.D.) 2— Language Arts celebrated the 10th anniversary of a very special project. For the past 10 years, students of Professors Carrie Whaley and Sandra Hathcox have been partnering with Mrs. Deana Sain’s 5th grade students from Bolivar Elementary School in a Book Buddy Project. This project was begun 10 years ago with Mrs. Sain as a way to engage both her students and the pre-service teachers in I.D. 2 in an electronic writing project.

Mrs. Sain selects a book for her students to read and each student is then paired with a college student who reads the same book along with them. During the course of the six weeks or so that the project lasts, the 5th graders have the opportunity to correspond with “real college students” and the college students have the opportunity to correspond with “real 5th graders” about the chapters they have read. It is a wonderful way for each group to get to know and build a relationship that spans the generations while creating interest in a selection of children’s literature. Of course, as they get to know each other better, the emails become a wonderful venue to also find out about and impact each other’s personal lives as well. Most of the 5th graders have never had the opportunity to converse with a college student, and the pre-service teachers have usually never corresponded with a 5th grader, so it is a very authentic and meaningful experience for both groups.

At the completion of the book, Mrs. Sain brings her class on a field trip to Union, where the Union students have planned campus tours and games to play with their new friends before having lunch together. After exchanging gifts, hugs and fond farewells, they reluctantly bid farewell for another year.

Students in I.D.2 always select this project as their favorite activity from the semester. They talk about how inspiring it was to have a younger student looking up to them. The 5th graders’ annual comments include such things as, “I thought I had a great privilege to be doing this program.” “She meant a lot to me like one of my family members.” “When we wrote each other, it was like a connection between us.”

Mrs. Sain, who has been named a Classroom Teacher Excellence Award Winner for 2009 by Tennessee Association for Childhood Education International had this to say about the project: “I want your students to know just how much this type of project means to a 5th grader! I had several 6th grade students come up to me at soccer games this past month asking if I was doing the pen pal project with Union again. They remembered their pal's name and spoke so fondly of the experience. At the end of the year, my reading students write about their year in 5th grade. Almost every student put the Union activity at the top of their list! This is not the only thing we do in 5th grade. We go to Shiloh National Military Park; we have a Science Club; we take a trip to the Pink Palace; we have a Field Day in which we only play games. I want you to see how special it is to them. Thanks for all you do!”

And thank you, Mrs. Deana Sain and Bolivar Elementary School for all you have done in partnering with us to prepare teachers of excellence for classrooms of tomorrow!

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