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        K-5, 13+

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        Part of Martha Speaks Series
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        Martha's True Stories Buddies Program: Overview

        The Martha’s True Stories Buddy Program uses the appeal of the popular PBS show Martha Speaks, plus STEM-based interactive texts and videos to help younger and older students learn new vocabulary and improve comprehension. The program was developed for classsrooms with diverse learners and includes supports for English learners (ELs). In a recent study, students in the program outperformed their peers who were not in the program in vocabulary and comprehension. ELs in the program gained as much in vocabulary and comprehension as non-El peers. Find everything you need to conduct the program, including guides, charts, and detailed lessons.

        Lesson Summary

        All of the information you need to successfully implement the Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program is provided on this page. (After reading this summary, click on the "Open" button, on the right to see a complete list of resources.)

        The Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program, based on the Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program, pairs Little Buddies (kindergarteners through second graders) with Big Buddies (third through fifth graders) to bolster reading and vocabulary skills.

        The program is “hosted” by Martha, star of the popular PBS television series MARTHA SPEAKS, which focuses on vocabulary acquisition. Martha, a dog who can talk, embodies the power of language and communication. The appeal of Martha and her friends helps to make the program captivating and fun.

        Elements of this program may be familiar to you if you have previously implemented or know cross-age reading program structure. The cross-age student-learning model encourages older students to take ownership of the material and guide or coach younger students through the text. Much of the success of the Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program is owed to this tried-and-true structure. See the original Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program.

        Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program contains additional elements that set it apart from other, more traditional cross-age reading programs.

        • The program focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) content and targets academic vocabulary words related to this content.
        • The program is aligned with research-based practice for supporting vocabulary and comprehension and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
        • The program includes explicit teacher-preparation for both sets of buddies to ensure that all students are provided appropriate support.
        • The program offers strategies for learning vocabulary, comprehending narrative, informational text as well as video.
        • The program provides tips for scaffolding peer-to-peer communication and collaboration skills, which are particularly important for English learners.
        • The program aligns with best practices for supporing English learners and a Tip Sheet provides recommendations for supporting English learners in inclusive classsrooms through the program.


        Time Allotment

        18 sessions, 45 minutes each

        Learning Objectives

        To increase and deepen knowledge and aptitude for academic vocabulary, strengthen understanding of informational and narrative text, and provide opportunities to build communication and collaboration skills.

        Grade Level:

        Prep for Teachers

        These materials will introduce you to the Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program and provide step-by-step guidance to every aspect of the program.

        Martha's True Stories Buddies Program: Teacher's Guide (PDF)
        Read this guide before you begin. It describes the program in detail, including rationale, program components, how to pair students, how the sessions are organized, and progress monitoring.

        PAWS Strategy Chart (PDF)
        This tool offers students an easy-to-remember comprehensive strategy. It is explained in the Teacher’s Guide and also provided as a separate PDF to post or distribute in the classroom.

        PET Strategy Chart (PDF)
        This tool offers students an easy-to-remember vocabulary strategy. It is explained in the Teacher’s Guide and also provided as a separate PDF to post or distribute in the classroom.

        Big Buddy Tips (PDF)
        This set of tips helps Big Buddies communicate with their Little Buddies, as well as reminding them of the rules of behavior for Big Buddies.

        Little Buddy Tips (PDF)
        This set of tips helps Little Buddies communicate with their Big Buddies, as well as reminding them of the rules of behavior for Big buddies.

        English Learners Tip Sheet (PDF)
        This tip sheet outlines how the program aligns with recommended practices for English Learners. 

        Classroom Connections (PDF)
        Find suggestions for how teachers can extend the learning of the program.

        Home School Connections (PDF)
        This tip sheet provides ideas for helping families support their child's vocabulary at home.

        Evaluation (PDF)
        This report provides the results of the study by the University of Maryland which showed that the program had a positive effect on both kindergarten and fourth grade students'vocabulary and comprehension.

        Buddy Barker 1 (PDF)

        Buddy Barker 2 (PDF)

        Buddy Barker 3 (PDF)
        These Buddy Barker PDFs are templates that will help Big Buddies and Little Buddies write and draw together.

        Lesson Sets
        The Martha’s True Stories Buddies Program consists of lesson sets designed to be implemented weekly. Each set includes one lesson for the Big Buddy teacher to do with the Big Buddy class, one lesson for the Little Buddy teacher to do with the Little Buddy class, and one lesson for the Buddy Session, when the buddies meet together.

        For Students
        Big Buddy teachers will need to makes copies of the Big Buddy Guide and the Big Buddy Checklists (see Media Resources below) for each of their students.

        Big Buddy Guide (PDF)
        The Big Buddy Guide explains how the program works and describes the role of the Big Buddy.

        Media Resources
        The videos and interactive stories used in this collecteion are divided into four thematic STEM units. Each thematic unit includes one video and three interactive stories.

        A Big Buddy Checklist is provided for each video or text, giving step-by-step instructions for the buddy session, as well as questions for the Big Buddies to ask their Little Buddies throughout the session. To access the checklists, click on each media title below:

        Environment (Science)

        Paws and Effect (Video)

        Can You Dig It? (Interactive Story)

        A Tale of Two Soup Cans (Interactive Story)

        Waste Not, Want Not (Interactive Story)

        Technology (Technology)

        Virtually Martha (Video)

        Getting To The Game (Interactive Story)

        Operation Ice Cream (Interactive Story)

        Kibble Contraption (Interactive Story)

        Inventions (Engineering)

        Itchy Martha (Video)

        How to be an Inventor (Interactive Story)

        Super Inventions (Interactive Story)

        TD Reports (Interactive Story)

        Measuring (Math)

        Martha in the Doghouse (Video)

        How Do You Measure Up? (Interactive Story)

        Planning an Elephant’s Party (Interactive Story)

        Sunflower Bone Biscuits (Interactive Story)



        Martha's True Stories Buddies Program was produced by the University of Maryland. The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A110142 to Rebecca D. Silverman, Melinda Martin-Beltran, and Megan M. Peercy at the University of Maryland. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.


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