The one about partner power

Having students truly work together can be difficult to figure out. How do you make sure that partners are sharing equal work load? How do you make sure that each student is contributing and getting something out of their learning? Is there a way to make sure you’re not wasting time making partners?

Here are some practiced partnership techniques!

1. Share a worksheet. Or poster paper, or book. Giving students only one piece of paper to record their information forces them to work together. In order to complete their task, they will need to share what they know. Depending on the class, occasionally I also require students to take turns writing. I can always see who wrote what by checking their handwriting!

2. Use different color pens/markers. Contrasting colors make it easy for you to spot when someone is not contributing as you walk around the classroom. Make sure to choose colors that stand out next to each other such as red and blue or purple and orange- this will really help you out as you scan the room. This works well with small groups also!

3. Use clock buddies.  Clock buddies are a way to pre-assign partners so that you don’t waste time pairing students up. It takes about 10-15 minutes to set up, and it saves so much time in the future! I like to create 4 sets of partners- 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and 12 o’clock. One set of partners is usually designated by their reading group, so students are paired with someone on the same reading level as they are. I also have a pair that is boy-girl, someone-not-in-your-reading-group, and whoever-you-want-that-will-help-you-be-productive. We keep partners for about half of the school year, and then switch them all up!

Fun factor: If you have a classroom theme, instead of calling your partners “clock buddies,” use your theme! For example, for a sports theme, you could have baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. For a bee theme, you could have carpenter bees, honey bees, bumblebees, and leafcutter bees. 

Do you have any tips for partner work? Share in the comments!

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