One of the first procedures I taught my students the first week of school (after teaching the morning routine, bathroom procedures, and dismissal routine), was my partnering up procedures. Although I used several different methods for partnering up, there was one method in particular I used several times a day.
I used something similar to the Kagan structure of “Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up.” Students would walk aimlessly around the classroom on my command, and then pair up with somebody close by on my command.
I explain this method in greater detail below, but first I want to explain WHY I loved this strategy so much that I used it several times a day.
• One of the biggest benefits is that students get to stand up and walk around. Almost all elementary teachers would agree that students are expected to sit way too much. Whenever I saw my students getting restless or antsy, I would have them walk around and pair up. It’s a short brain break/movement break that doesn’t waste any class time.
• Another huge benefit is increased engagement. When you have students partner up to answer a question instead of calling on just one person, then at least 50% of your class is actively engaged. And the other 50% – the students that are listening to their partners – are more likely to be paying attention to their partners then they would be in a whole class setting.
• A 3rd benefit is that this gives students a chance to practice speaking and listening to peers, not just to their teacher. Sometimes students are able to reach each other in ways that the teacher can’t.
• A final benefit is that this gives students an opportunity to talk with a variety of their classmates and build relationships with them. Students will naturally try to partner up with their friends as much as possible; if you use this method regularly, however, they will get a chance to talk with every student in the class regularly. Often, I would have my students partner up and answer one of my Ice Breaker Questions so that they could learn more about the other students in our class. The more students talk to each other and find things in common with each other, the less problems they will have with bullying each other.
Setting Up the Procedure
1. I would ask students to stand up, push in their chairs, and wait behind their desk.
2. I would ask students to walk (not run!) around the classroom. Students should not be following their friends around, but walking aimlessly.
3. I would say “Freeze,” and students would freeze immediately.
4. I would say, “Pair up,” and students would pair up with somebody that was close by – no running across the room to pair up with a friend. Anybody who could not find a partner would walk to me and pair up with somebody else that couldn’t find a partner. If there was an odd number of students, then the last student would join a partnership and form a group of 3. Students found their partners without talking and waited for my instructions.
5. I would ask a question. Partners talked to each other, both of them answering the question. While partners were talking, I would walk around and monitor conversations.
6. I would use an attention getter to stop student conversations. Then, I would call on a random student to answer the question whole class.
7. Students would walk back to their seats.
• Provide sentence starters for students to use when talking to their partner and answering the question. This is especially beneficial for ELL students or low language students.
• Use this partnering method to see what students might be targets for bullying. If you notice the same student is consistently the last one to be paired up, then you know that the other students are probably avoiding this student or that this student doesn’t have friends. Knowing this helps you be better able to take steps to prevent any more bullying. This is somewhat similar to the method used by the teacher that made seating charts.
• Use this to build confidence and risk taking in struggling students. While partners are answering a question, help one of your struggling students with his or her answer. Then, when partners are done talking, call on that struggling student and have them answer the question in front of the class. Since they have already had a chance to discuss the question with you and their partner, they will be more confident in answering the question – and proud knowing they answered correctly.
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