How many times have you said the words, “find a partner” and complete chaos happens? Either students don’t move, fight, or go immediately to their best friend. Sound too familiar? In this post you are going to learn some easy and effective ways to get your students partnered, why it’s important, and ideas for utilizing partner activities in your classroom.
Allowing students to have a voice in the classroom is really important for a variety of reasons. Not only does it help with developing communication skills, but it also allows students to feel valued and heard. When students are encouraged to voice their ideas, experiences, and feelings, students learn important collaboration and language skills. It also helps greatly to identify and discuss common misconceptions.
Sometimes students don’t get much practice communicating and this is where partner conversations can come in to help foster healthy connections and discussions. I love utilizing partners throughout the day with students. Whether it’s during the beginning of the day and we are sharing something personal or during academic times. Oftentimes students feel more comfortable sharing with a partner and can learn from them even better from us!
But how do we help students learn how to collaborate? Check out these tools below that can help students learn how to use their voice and come up with things to talk about. They’re great to help them learn how to have conversations and how to respectfully disagree with each other.
How many times have you heard, “we don’t know what to talk about.” These can help with diminishing that statement. Encourage them with practice topics and don’t forget to shine a spotlight on great conversations you overhear to set expectations for students. When sharing with the class, one powerful question I like asking students is, “what did your partner say?” This helps ensure that they are actively listening to their partner and not just sharing their own thoughts and opinions. It also helps give their partner a voice if they are too shy to speak out themselves.
When to Use Partners
Partner work is so powerful to foster student’s growth exponentially throughout the year, academically, socially, and emotionally. Working together helps build friendships, it gives opportunities for peer teaching, and it keeps students engaged. This type of work opens up great practice for problem solving, verbal communication, and conflict resolution as well. Some instances where grouping partners are would be beneficial include:
- Academic conversations
- Games or activities
- Buddy reading
- Field trips
- Turn and Talks
- Completing a task
While students learn a lot from individual and whole group time, utilizing partner activities is just as impactful and there should be tons of time for it in the school day.
Rather than causing chaos by simply telling students to partner up, using partner cards is an awesome way to get this task accomplished. You can either pre-plan out partners for academic conversations or randomly hand out cards and have them find a partner.
If you want to pre-plan partners, make your list and hand out one of the pairs to each half of the pairs of students. It may seem “random” for students, but you have strategically paired them! But maybe you would like a more random pairing experience? Let students pick a partner card from a hat to find their perfect match! Using this method allows for students to work together who may not otherwise choose each other, more collaboration, and it provides a nice, structured way to group students.
When pairing students for an academic task, strategic partnering should be implemented. You want students to have productive conversations; both sharing information and learning from one another. It requires deeper thinking about the whole child, their strengths, and who best fits with each other ability-wise. For example, if I have a student who is ready for addition within 100 but another student who is still working on addition within 10, those two students are not the best grouping. Instead, I may look for another student who is also working on addition within 10 so that they can learn strategies from one another and have a productive time. This strategic grouping may also mean that they have a different partner for math than they do for reading or even writing and that’s completely normal!
What if you have an odd number of students? That’s no problem! Simply make an extra card and have milk paired with cookie 1 and cookie 2. These cards can also be laminated and hot glued onto a popsicle stick to make it easier for little hands to hold onto!
All of these tools and more are apart of the Partner Cards Resource!
Beginning of the Year Tips
When you are introducing this concept to littles, there can be confusion. Alleviate some of the confusion with some important lesson tools. Display this poster for students as they begin to learn about the different ‘perfect pairs’. They will see exactly who their perfect match is no matter which card they receive.
Students also need to learn what it means to be a good partner and how we collaborate with our peers. Take a look at these different expectation posters that can support student understanding during the first few weeks of school. These posters are also available in blank versions for you to add your own reminders for students!
Want anther great way to practice communication skills at the beginning of the year? Charades is a great way to build team skills as well as important communication skills. The best part is that you can grab this engaging activity for FREE below!
Grab this free resource now!
I hope you enjoyed learning about how to utilize partners in your classroom. Collaborating is a CRUCIAL life skill for students and we need to help them learn how to do it successfully. Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! You will get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the Back to School Charades FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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