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Partnering Students

k alva

New Member
I usually use playing cards to pair students together for activities, but there are always groans. When I let students pick their own partners, there are always 1-2 kids that nobody picks and 1-2 kids that everyone fights over. I read about an idea somewhere that has kids use a paper clock to list 12 kids they would like to be partners, one on each hour. Then the teacher tells them to work with their 1:00 or 6:00 partner. I'm confused about how to make all of the clocks match up. Has anyone used this system or a better system for pairing students?

New Mex Teacher

Full Member

I have used the clocks with my fourth graders and it can be a nightmare trying to get it all to work out. What I have used 2 variations that I think work better. The one I use the most is to use the seasons. This way you only need to have 4 match up rather than 12. I have also used the clock but only did 12, 3, 6, 9.
I hope this helps.


Senior Member
teach not to groan

I think that it is important to explain to your students both the importance of being involved with all their classmates and also that it is very impolite to groan when they hear about a partner. Have a discussion how hurtful and immature that action can come across and simply tell them for those reasons--you do not tolerate it.


Senior Member
I agree with Kali

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.


Senior Member

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.


Senior Member
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.



Senior Member
Index Cards

I have a systems I use, but I find I don't use anyone all the time. Sometimes I have time to let them find their partner, sometimes I need to get them matched quick, and sometimes if it's for a longer project I want to make sure they are match well.

One that works well when you have a little time to spend (about 5 min to match them up) is the index cards.

I made index cards at the begining of the year. I have a set of 36 cards. 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 only use how ever sets 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! ;) )


Junior Member
Clock Partners

Go to page 5 on this board and scroll down to Clock Partners.
Good information and downloads aailable. :)


Full Member
choosing partners

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 discusing it. - It only takes 1 or 2 ...)

The "sticks" are 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.


Full Member
Clock Partners

I'm planning to use this system with my third graders this year. You might want to visit this post, where some wonderful teachers shared their ideas with me!


I intend to spend one of the early days of school getting these clocks set up and then make some photocopies of them so that the students have a copy to glue into their folder of notebook and then I also have a copy to keep in case they lose their copy.

One of the ideas I got for organzing the clocks originally is to go through the clock one hour at a time and allow the students to only fill that time in, before moving on. It will be made clear to my students that this is an opportunity to work with many different people throughout the year and that they are not permitted to have the same student name on their clock more than once. I actually set up my own clock based on the samples I was given because I only have 17 or 18 students in my class and therefore could make it so that most students partnered up with each other student. For the "odd" student, I'm going to have them place a question mark and then they will know to come to me desk if they have the question mark and I will either pair them up with someone whose partner is absent or have them work with another group. I love this idea, because I can make sure my students interact and work with each other throughout the year, without the same students being together (on purpose or by accident as it always seems to happen that way!)

Good luck!
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Senior Member
I just got this idea from an incoming first year teacher who is working next door to me. As soon as she showed it to me...I was loving it.

She also told me that when she used it in student teaching that it was easier to fill in one time slot once a day for the first week of school or so. She said it's less confusing for the kids and for the teacher. So, I'll probably try to do so during a lull in the day if there is one or maybe at the end of the day.

I like the suggestions of telling them why we will be doing it, making sure they have boys and girls on their list, and so on.