Oral vocabulary plays a powerful role in determining a child’s academic success. The educational goal of MARTHA SPEAKS, the popular animated PBS KIDS show, is to teach children new words. Based on the children's books by Susan Meddaugh, the series stars Martha, a beloved family dog. She is accidentally fed alphabet soup, which gives her the power of speech and the chance to speak her mind. The result is a fun and engaging show that uses research-based methods to introduce, define, and use new vocabulary.
The MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program was developed to accompany the MARTHA SPEAKS television series. This cross-age reading program is an innovative way for kindergarten and upper-level elementary students to increase their vocabulary, develop their self-esteem and social skills, and enhance their love of books and reading.
The Reading Buddies program consists of 10 sessions. Each session offers students opportunities to hear and use the key vocabulary from the MARTHA SPEAKS show in a meaningful and personalized context. In each session, the Little Buddies and Big Buddies: watch a MARTHA SPEAKS episode, discuss the show with each other and play a game designed to encourage oral vocabulary skills, read a picture book together, and write in a special journal. You may choose to do as many sessions as you wish, although we suggest you begin with Martha and Skits, which was designed as a beginning session and introduces students to the show and to the Reading Buddies Program. You may want to end with Martha Says It with Flowers, which was developed as a closing session. You may also adapt each session to fit your classroom’s needs.
In each of the ten sessions, we provide one video to watch, a Big Buddy Guide for the older students, Games and Activities for the session, and a Journal that students write in each time. In addition, you will find a detailed overview of the program, specific instructions for teachers of Big Buddies and teachers of Little Buddies, a checklist, and classroom resources including a poster, certificate of achievement, and a letter to send to families. It is important to thoroughly read all of the materials—for teachers, students, and families—so that you understand how to set up, maintain, and conclude the program.
To help younger and older students increase and deepen their knowledge and understanding of oral vocabulary, inspire a love of books of reading, and improve social skills.
K–1 and 4–5
10 sessions, 60 minutes each
These materials will introduce you to the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program and provide step-by-step guidance on every aspect of the program. You may want to print out one copy of each document to read and refer to. Create a handy notebook or folder to keep all of these documents in one place. Materials specific to a particular session can be found in the Resources for that session.
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Background (PDF) Find out about the importance of teaching vocabulary and the benefits of cross-age reading programs. Learn about the MARTHA SPEAKS television series and the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program. (For Big Buddy and Little Buddy teachers)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: How-To (PDF) Discover the components of the program, the five steps of each session, how to work with your teacher partner, plan your sessions, obtain materials, choose read-aloud books, and celebrate success. (For Big Buddy and Little Buddy teachers)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Teacher Checklist (PDF) Use this checklist as a quick summary of what you need to get started and get organized. (For Big Buddy and Little Buddy teachers)
MARTHA SPEAKS: Instructions for Little Buddy Teachers (PDF) Help your students understand the Reading Buddies routines, introduce and teach new vocabulary words, and plan wrap-up activities. (For Little Buddy teachers)
MARTHA SPEAKS: Instructions for Big Buddy Teachers (PDF) Prepare your students with a special Big Buddy “training” session, organize their practice sessions, and provide guidance and encouragement as they learn to be Big Buddies. (For Big Buddy teachers)
Using the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program with English Language Learners (PDF) If you have English language learners in your classroom, you can adapt the Reading Buddies program to help you support your ELL students, whether they are Little Buddies or Big Buddies. (For Big Buddy and Little Buddy teachers)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Classroom Poster (PDF) Designate your classroom as a participant in the Reading Buddies Program with this colorful poster. For best results, print it out at a local print shop on 17” x 22” size paper. (For Big Buddy and Little Buddy teachers)
Teachers will need to makes copies of these materials for each of their students. Depending on what teaching partners have arranged, Big Buddies will probably bring the materials with them to each session with their Little Buddies.
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Big Buddy Guide (PDF): This detailed guide—which Big Buddies will read beforehand and bring with them to each session—includes plans, discussion questions, and writing prompts. (You will need one guide per buddy pair. Be sure to have the Big Buddies staple the pages together and write the name of their buddy on it during the first session.)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Games and Activities (PDF) After watching the MARTHA SPEAKS episode, Big Buddies help their Little Buddies play a game or complete an activity together. (Print these pages double-sided so that the “Choose and Chat” cards will work!) (The Game or Activity for each session are also included in the resource for that session.)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Journal (PDF) By responding to particular prompts, Big Buddies and Little Buddies use key vocabulary as they write or draw in this journal. (You will need one journal per buddy pair. Be sure to have Big Buddies staple the pages together and write the name of their buddy on it during the first session.) (The Journal page for each session is also included in the resource for that session.)
MARTHA SPEAKS: Little Buddy Certificate (PDF) At the end of the program, Big Buddies fill these out for their Little Buddies. (You will need one certificate for each Little Buddy.)
MARTHA SPEAKS: Big Buddy Certificate (PDF) Big Buddies receive these from their teacher at the end of the program. (You will need one certificate for each Big Buddy.)
To involve families in the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program and to strengthen the home-school connection, consider sending these materials home with your students.
MARTHA SPEAKS: Letter to Little Buddy Families (PDF) This letter for the families of Little Buddies explains what the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program is and the importance of vocabulary for young learners. You may want to customize this letter by printing it on school stationery. English (pdf, 104KB) Spanish (pdf, 104KB)
MARTHA SPEAKS: Letter to Big Buddy Families (PDF) This letter for the families of Big Buddies explains what the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program is and the benefits for Big Buddies. You may want to customize this letter by printing it on school stationery. English (pdf, 140KB) Spanish (pdf, 124KB)
MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program: Family Guide (PDF) This friendly booklet suggests ways for parents and caregivers of young children to encourage vocabulary usage and literacy at home. If possible, print this in color and fold it as a brochure. English (pdf, 1.2MB) Spanish (pdf, 1.2MB)
Martha and Skits (Session 1): A new puppy joins Martha's household, bursting with energy and the desire to chew everything. Vocabulary: extraordinary, stupendous, talent, unique
Martha to the Rescue (Session 2): Martha is inspired by her favorite show, "Courageous Collie Carlo." Vocabulary: brave, courageous, hero, rescue
Firedog Martha (Session 3): Martha wants to be a firehouse dog, just like in her favorite book, Firehouse Freddie. Vocabulary: actually, fantasy, pretend, real
Martha in Charge (Session 4): Mom is out and Helen is sick in bed. Martha thinks maybe candy and pizza would help. Vocabulary: cure, healthy, recuperate, remedy
Perfectly Martha (Session 5): Martha suspects there is something fishy about the Perfect Pup dog-training school. Vocabulary: disobedient, disobey, obedient, obey
Martha Walks the Dog (Session 6): There's a new dog in town and he is loud and mean! Vocabulary: bully, compliment, pleasant, unpleasant
Martha Calling (Session 7): When Martha wins a trip to the Come-On-Inn, there's only one problem: No dogs allowed. Vocabulary: allowed, forbidden, rule, permitted
There Goes the Neighborhood (Session 8): Martha thinks that kittens are not to be tolerated. But could Alice's new kitten be different? Vocabulary: buddy, ignore, prejudice, tolerate
Dog Fight (Session 9): Martha and Skits are bickering about a new toy, and now T.D. and Alice are taking sides. Can't they all just get along? Vocabulary: bicker, quarrel, negotiate, truce
Martha Says It with Flowers (Session 10): Martha decides to do something really special for Grandma's birthday. Vocabulary: considerate, inconsiderate, sincere, thoughtful