Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Partner Time: Learning while we partner up.

I'm a big believer in partner talk time. My students get a chance to discuss new ideas, teach each other new vocabulary, read with a partner and work together often during the day.  With little ones making partner groups can be tricky.

Ask 6 year olds to find a partner and you will quickly see who is friends with who, who no one wants to work with and who really really wanted to work with someone who doesn't want to work with them.

I tried pair generators on sites like the one on Superteachertools  and they can be great at times but give you very little control of your pairs and also are a little boring for the kiddos at times.

One of the best ways I found to create truly random pairs (that I can still control a little) is match-up cards.

Match-up cards are sets of things that come in twos. Students have to find the person who has their match-up card pair. That person becomes their partner.

Examples of match-up cards:

Uppercase and lowercase letters  (I have A and you have a? Great we are partners!)
Number pairs (I have 1 and you have one? Great lets talk!)
Sight word match (Hey look we both have the word  "maman" guess we are are working together)
Color words and color swatches (I have the word blue... do you have a blue card?)
Cut up equations ( I have 5+5 ... I'm looking for someone with the answer 10)
Word and picture cards ( I have the word cat. Who has a picture of a cat?) - Hint use pre-made vocab cards and cut in two. Example
Question and answer cards (Use these to review information)
Word puzzles ( Match the rhymes for example)

What I love about this method:

1) It is random but also controllable.

I can hand out the cards any way I like. I can also make sure that two students don't end up together (or do end up together) by mentally keeping track of what cards I gave them.

2) A little learning with your pairs

The cards give my students a chance to do a little reading, math, or vocabulary building while they are looking for a partner.

3) Peer teaching opportunity

As the kids wander around you will hear students tell each other.. that says CAT you need to find someone with a cat picture.  or "I don't think 5+6= 19  because I know 5+5=10  I think the answer is 11"

4) It gives me a use for those cute classroom cutout shapes.

I seem to collect cut out shapes or apples and frogs and leaves. Every year my collection grows but I never had a really great reason for owning them. Now I can write my match-up cards on them. It takes very little time and the kids love them.

The whole process takes about 5 minutes when students get good at it. They get a chance to walk around a little and they don't complain about their partner choices because they know it was "random". Students also know that the person we end up with is our partner until the next time we play partner match. We don't need to pick new partners every time we talk. Once a day or even once a week is enough.

What did I learn at school today? Picking pairs can be as fun and educational as working in pairs. Making match-up cards is quick and easy and is a great way to get students to practice skills while getting paired up. What strategies do you use to match-up partners?

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