Reciprocal Review: Siblings Helping Each Other

When I wrote a Day-in-the-Life post for last year's Not Back to School Blog Hop, I mentioned an activity called Reciprocal Review, which my girls did to start their bookwork each day. Since then, I've had a few inquiries about the nature of the task and so - since most of us are in the early weeks of a new academic term - I thought it might be beneficial to describe what we've done.

First let me say that my two goals in implementing Reciprocal Review last year were to:
  1. get my girls going on their bookwork while I did "circle time" activities with the younger children (in my case, preschoolers whom I babysat);
  2. help the girls review basic information - spelling words, math facts, names of piano notes - independent of me.

And the process was pretty simple: I merely designated each girl's first workbox for Reciprocal Review and filled it with their All About Spelling review boxes and appropriate flashcards for math and/or piano notation. Rachel's box contained the items for Abigail's review, and Abigail's box held practice for Rachel. Each generally had 10 spelling words and 10 math cards a day - and, when we did piano notes, each did half of our stack of about 30 cards.

For planning purposes, I estimated that Reciprocal Review would take about 20 minutes, and that was usually pretty accurate. Afterward, I either had another independent task designated on each girl's workbox grid or - barring that - had them get a snack and wait for our morning group time while I finished up with the little ones.

In general, this worked well. Both girls got near-daily review of important facts, and the task got them moving on bookwork each day while freeing me up to work with the other children. They also liked spending that time together and doing an academic activity by themselves.

One downside was that they sometimes got into spats Or - on the other hand - got too silly with each other and lost focus. I was frustrated when I had to intervene in either case because I wanted to keep my attention on the little girls during that time.

Another issue was that, though both girls generally enjoyed working together, Rachel sometimes became discouraged. You see, math and spelling are currently a bit tricky for her, but both come easy to Abigail. And so, though Abigail never lords that over her, it was hard on Rachel to know that her sister rarely got anything (other than piano notes) wrong while she, inevitably, had several errors each day. As a mom, it was very hard to see my little girl hurting - and to know Abigail felt bad for her sister, too.

We took a break from it over the summer, but the girls have asked if we'll do it again now. Since they've asked, I think we will...eventually. But I'm still trying to figure out if it's workable for us right now, given our special circumstances.

I'm in the process of adding some therapeutic activities (with me) into Rachel's daily schedule - exercises about which I'll explain more later - in hopes of helping her to get a better handle on math facts and spelling skills. But, because I'm still in the research phase with that, I'm not yet sure if Reciprocal Review will complement those tasks or not. Plus, I may wait to re-introduce the activity until after Rachel has mastered some of the exercises - so that she can feel better about her abilities when working with Abigail.

Overall, though, I am really happy with this idea; I think it's a very useful way to encourage sibling teamwork, empathy, and communication skills. And it was a great way to get the older kids working while I focused on the younger ones. I encourage anyone else with sets of both older and younger children to give it a shot, too.

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