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Choosing Partners

Compiled By: luv2teach77

Partnering up students or putting them in small groups to work together can sometimes be a little tricky. In this collection, teachers share creative ways to partner students up.

choosing partners
Posted by: JRichard

A teacher friend of mine does an icebreaker at the beginning of the year called an "appointment book." It's like the bingo game, except kids have a sheet that lists the days of the school week. They have to find someone they don't know well and share...(fill in the blank, their favorite movie, their best day) etc. They must sign the same day on each other's pages. Once they are done playing, they must tape it into the front cover of their Interactive Student Notebook (or binder, or desk lid?).

Then, throughout the year, she says, "OK, now get with your Wednesday partner..." Everyone is matched and it is pretty random due to the nature of the icebreaker.

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Posted by: BookMuncher

I hardly ever ever let my kids pick partners. When I do, I do it like this:

Once I really know all my kids and I know the ones who get left out, I'll keep that in mind and say, "So-and-so, pick a partner" (Always giving quiet kids and out-liers first picks) When there are about three pairs left, I just quick partner the last three on my own. I refuse to ever have a last pick.

I only do the above probably 3 times a year-- mostly, I just partner my kids myself. I have permanent math partners and permanent reading buddy partners. The reading partners work better when kids can plan who they will be with and both read at the same level. As for math, there are some activities for which I want partners to be evenly matched, but others that I want two different levels. For this reason, I have a math parnters chart. The higher half of my class is listed randomly down one side, and the lower half of the class is listed across from them, down the other side. (Of course, i don't group for anything in math, so they don't know this) There is a purple line connecting the high/low partners across from each other the whole way down. There is also a red carrot connecting the kids who are above and below each other (a high with a high, a low with a low). If you can picture that! When I want kids to work in a group that is homogenenous, I ask them to work with their red partner, and when I want it to be heterogeneous, I ask them to work their purple partner.

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Choosing Partners using Index Cards
Posted by: 3grteacher

One system that works well when you have a little time to spend (about 5 minutes to match them up) is index cards. I have a set of 36 cards I made at the begining of the year. I put matching stickers on every set of two cards and then I had them laminated.

I put them face down on the table and have them come up in groups to pick a card. They then have to find their sticker match. Simple and the kids seem to like it.

I use how ever [many] sets as I need depending on absent students. If I have an odd number, I put one odd card in the mix and who ever gets that card waits till the end and can pick which ever group they want to be in. (I get final veto if it's a really bad choice!)

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choosing partners
Posted by: bzetchr

I have tongue depressors with a number on one end of each one - up to the number of kids in the class. I number my students in the beginning of the year (1, 2, 3, ... alphabetically as they appear on attendance sheet or in grade book). I keep the "sticks" in a cup, number down. When it's time for partner work, I pull 2, or 3, or 4 (whatever size groups you need) at a time and those numbered kids work together. I also do an introductory spiel about moans and groans - "You are not getting married, just working together" and about being polite - it's an expectation, with a consequence if I hear any comments or eyerolls. (Usually a few minutes of their recess time privately discussing it. - It only takes 1 or 2 ...)

The "sticks" are also good for choosing who answers a question during a discussion, who takes the lunch bin over, who takes equipment to recess, who gets in line first- any time you need a random selection. If you have students put their "number" at the top of their paper next to their name - when you've graded it, you can easily put papers in the order the names appears in your grade book - makes recording /posting grades quick too.

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assigning partners
Posted by: Kermit

I usually assign partners, but when I have the kids "choose" partners I am very directed about it. For example, say I want groups of five.

I will pick the first kids (lining up the "team leader" play ground style in the front of the room) making sure to include any "low status" students in the mix. Then they each choose a partner. The second kid picked also chooses a partner. Then I will choose the last two kids for the group. This way, the low status kid doesn't feel like he is picked last. Say he picks Mr. Popular... Mr. Popular may not be too pleased about working with Low Status, but then Mr. Popular can pick a friend too. I then pick the rest of the group to 1) ensure a good gender mix, and 2) make sure the groups have a decent ability mix, and to make sure that low status kid is not left in the dust by the group. This way, there is also about a third of the class left for me to divide up, so it's not like there is one kid left that no one has picked.

This has worked well for me. I do it quite often. For groups less than 5, will have the kids pick someone of the opposite gender. So again, I will pick the first kid, then she picks a boy, and he picks a girl. I think I got this idea from Survivor. They are not necessarily picking friends (since 3rd and 4th graders are usually friends with their own gender) but they are picking people they know they can work with.

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group work
Posted by: kirsten

I always preface group work with a short spiel about being polite and kind and remind the kids they are being grouped for "work" not a dance, they don't have to get married - which always gets a giggle - just work. Just like adults do every day - you work with people whether you have anything in common with them or not - it's just to get a job done. I end with a reminder that if I do hear any rude comments or sounds, we will never do group work again - and they LIKE group work, so that usually works.

A friend of mine gave me a cute idea. We usually work in 4's but you could do the same thing for 2's. She cut the beautiful pictures from an old calendar, had them laminated, then cut them into puzzle shaped pieces. I have the kids each pull a puzzle piece from a basket and then tell them to go find the other pieces to their puzzle and when their puzzle is complete to sit at a group of desks and raise their hands. They really do like looking for the puzzle pieces and seeing what the picture is when put together. It's a great way to expose them to classic art, beautiful scenes from around the country, famous people, whatever the calendar may be.

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clock partners
Posted by: azfarkas

I just recently started using "clock partners". I made a clock that has a line next to 3, 6, 9 and 12. Then students went around and chose people to be their 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock partner. Now it's really easy because I can just say ok, get with your 3 o'clock partner.

To avoid complaning and all that comes with partners, as a class we created "partner rules" that are posted in the room at all times. Whenever I have an issue I refer to the rules and they know if they break one of those rules then they do not get a partner the next time we work together.

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Clock Partners
Posted by: mlg

I have used [clock partners] successfully with many previous classes. The past couple of years, however, it has been more difficult to implement because of a lot of comings and goings of students. If you do decide to use it, DEFINITELY have duplicate copies of each student's partner lists that you keep handy. The kids WILL lose them or not have them available when needed. One way that helped to minimize this happening was to have the students staple or glue them to the inside cover of their folders or a notebook. I always make it a rule that they must have a different partner's name for each time slot and that they must have both boys and girls on their lists.

This does take a little bit of class time to set up because it can seem to be confusing at first, but it is well worth it. I found that what worked best for my students was to explain it as clearly as possible at the beginning then to tell them to find a partner for their 1:00 time slot. MAKE SURE THAT EACH CHILD HAS LISTED THEIR PARTNER'S NAME IN THE GIVEN TIME SLOT ON THEIR SHEET AND THAT THEIR NAME IS ON THEIR PARTNER'S SHEET FOR THE SAME TIME SLOT. Don't move on to the next time slot until each step is complete. Trust me, this will save a lot of aggravation!! ;)

This really is a good technique and the kids do seem to enjoy it.

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shape partners
Posted by: westernteach

I have always taught lower grades and have used 4 shapes (circle, square, star, triangle) on a paper with a line next to them. At the beginning of the year, I had kids take their paper and fill in the partners. They could choose one person from their group (I usually group my desks into 4 or 5 in a group) but the other shapes had to be filled in from other groups. If I was your square partner, then we put my name on your paper next to the square and your name on my paper next to the square. It seemed to really help because I would say "find you star partner and do..." and it cut back on those responses, "I don't want to work with _________."

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Posted by: GraceK

We do "mingle mingle" from SPARKS (PE) curriculum. Basically, the kids all walk around and "mingle mingle mingle" (said like the tune of the conga line dance), and then I call out how they should group up or pair up "3 back to back, birthdays in the same month" or "pairs, wearing the same color shirt." Sometimes they get to choose, sometimes I choose the parameters. The kids love it, for the most part, and if they complain, I do not let them choose their own partners next time. When they have worked together well for many times in a row, I will let them mingle and choose their own partner another time.

OR I will have them line up by age or birthdate or some other line, then pair them with the people next to them, or count off or something else.

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Pairing High Ability and Low Ability
Posted by: Jaime

I try to keep my partnerships on a more level ground when it comes to making partnerships during math and reading time. I think there are times and places for high and low students to work together for example: During turn and talk time during read alouds my kids are very mixed by abilities because it is not necessary for anyone to read or during science experiments. When asking children to read together I never pair my highest and lowest kids together. That is setting one up to be the teacher and one to be the follower. I believe that all children should be reading books at their grade level when reading independently or with a partner. Just because children are low readers does not mean that they don't have fantastic thinking about a text. In fact during read aloud time I have found some of them to be better thinkers then some "high ability" students.

I take a fairly strong stand on letting high ability students assist lower ability students for some of the same reasons that have already been stated...they sometimes don't see it the same way ...etc. I strongly recommend reading "Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented" by Susan Winebrenner. This book has left me with many moments of deep thinking that I come back to often.