We have a buddy system at my school - the 4th grade is paired with the 4-year-old pre-kindergarten class. Each 4th grader is buddied with a preK student. Sometimes we have two 4th graders with one buddy or vice versa, depending on the numbers in the grades. We do a variety of low-key activities with the little ones, like playing on the playground together, or reading books.
Back in December the two 4th grade classes had made little counting books for the buddies. My partner and I had both signed up with Stamps Teach, part of the American Philatelic Society. As a teacher, you sign up for free and they send you lots of stamps, plus other interesting stamp things, and you can get lesson plans from their site. We have tried a few of the activities suggested, including this counting book idea. The 4th graders used the stamps to illustrate the numbers from 1 to 10. It was an excellent activity for December when attentions tend to wander! The 4th graders loved the stamps and the idea of making books for the 4-year-olds.
The books were finished, but we got busy, and it wasn't until today that we were able to go visit our little buddies to deliver and read the books. Our young buddies also things to share - they had been doing a dragon unit. Each child had made a dragon puppet from a sock and a habitat for the dragon out of a shoe box. They were all very imaginative and cute. After the books were read and the dragons and their homes admired, we all went to the playground for a bit.
We all have a lot of fun throughout the year with our buddy partners, but for me the best part is seeing my 4th graders step up and work with the little ones. Students who may be struggling in academics, kids who are the "baby" of their family, kids who act immature in the 4th grade classroom - when they get a little buddy they become patient, caring, nurturing. I have watched a squirrelly 4th grade boy work diligently and with gentleness to keep the attention of a 4-year-old boy while reading to him. I watch the preKs lead the older kids around the preK room, the older kids asking questions and showering attention on the little ones. It's a beautiful sight.