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Creative Ways to Choose Partner Pairs in the Classroom 

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Choosing partner pairs in your classroom is an important task that can have a major impact on both the learning environment and social dynamics of the class. Teachers know that creating a positive learning environment is essential for students’ academic and social development. A great way to foster collaboration and teamwork is by designing activities that require the use of partner pairs. In this blog post, we will explore some innovative ways to pair up students in your elementary classroom.

Here are three of my favorite ways to choose partner pairs:

Random Pairing for Fun Engagement

One of the fairest ways to pair students is through random selection. Some apps and websites offer ways to randomly partner students by pairing names. These work great! As a matter of fact, if you use Class Dojo, your kids’ names are already in the classroom, so it’s super fast and efficient. But, I like to get my kiddos up and moving. Yes, it’s easy enough to click a button and tell them who their partner is, but where’s the fun in that?

Partner Pairing Cards

My students have the most fun with partner pairing cards! I keep the partner cards my magnetic cups on my marker board and have the students choose one card. Once everyone has a card, they have one minute to find their partner. When I want to make it extra challenging, I ask them to do so without talking. This is also a great way for students to introduce themselves to one another at the beginning of the school year.

If you don’t have time to make your own partner pairing cards, check these out! There’s 12 different themed sets to give you year-long variety in partnering kids up for learning activities.

Strategic Pairs for Balanced Learning

Sometimes, it’s helpful to strategically pair students based on their abilities or personalities. For example, for partner reading, you wouldn’t want to pair your strongest reader with the lowest reader. This combination will quickly become disheartening for your struggling reader as he or she realizes the gap in their knowledge. It also leads to frustration for your highest reader because the struggling reader just can’t keep up.

Instead, I like to use a more balanced way to partner reading buddies. If you have oral reading fluency scores for your students, put them in order of the lowest score to the highest score. Let’s look at a completely made up list of student scores just as an example.

Example Class Scores (Totally Made Up!)

Balancing the Pairs

Since there are 20 kids on my list, I’m going to split it in half between Mia and Lucas. Then I make partners for students 1-10 with students 11-20. Student 1 will be partnered with student 11, student 2 with student 12, and so on. 

Now, your partners have more balanced reading abilities.

Partner Pairs List TeacherMood

You see how scores of 39 and 60 are much closer than scores of 39 and 83? Yes, there’s still a difference of 20 words per minute, but it’s not the 40+ words per minute it would have been. Now if you have an odd number of students you can still do this. You can have a group of three, or you can have one student be your partner. It’s completely up to you. I personally like having a group of three so that I’m available to observe and provide support.

Empowering Students with Self-Selection

A third way to partner students up is to allow students to choose their own partners. This can empower them to work with friends or other classmates they feel comfortable with. However, this method of pairing should always be balanced with other pairing methods to avoid students forming cliques. Be prepared to intervene if necessary, as some students may struggle to work effectively with their friends due to disruptive behavior. You may have to separate or even forbid certain pairings.

Final Thoughts on Partner Pairing

Choosing partner pairs in an elementary classroom can be an exciting and engaging experience for students. By implementing these creative pairing techniques, you can promote collaboration and build community in a positive classroom environment. The primary goal of partner work is so that all students have the opportunity to thrive academically and socially. Remember to keep the pairing process interesting by rotating these methods throughout the year. I’d love to hear about your favorite ways to partner students, so please share them in the comments below or connect with me on Instagram!

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