Creating partners in the classroom can be a tricky topic. Kids are going to gravitate toward their friends and the people they know in the class. Having set ways to make partners will help students work together with all students in the classroom – not just their friends.
Students need to understand that working with a wide variety of people helps make classrooms inclusive spaces – letting them choose their partners 100% of the time is not inclusive. Someone will always feel left out.
This isn’t to say that students can’t pick their partners once in a while, but having various ways to make partners makes it easy for the teacher and the students. No one will feel left out, and there will be less stress for the teacher because the students will already know the rules of how a partner will be picked.
Why is working with a variety of different people a good skill in the classroom?
Aside from creating an inclusive environment in the classroom, working with a variety of different people does have its benefits:
It provides different perspectives.
When we work with like-minded people, we might have like-minded thoughts and ideas. By working with different people, different ideas will be brought up for projects, discussions, debates, etc. This can help students see things from a different perspective and help them think more creatively. It will also help challenge students in different ways and help them become more open-minded, learning how to adapt to different situations.
It helps students meet new people.
We don’t want students to work with the same people 100% of the time. One reason for this is that in doing so, they could lose the opportunity to meet others who might end up playing a huge role in their lives. It is also because when they work with the same people over and over, they might not be as challenged as they could be when working with others.
It’s very important for students to branch out socially so they can find other individuals they work well with and empathize with the perspectives other students might have. Students can also learn a lot from each other when working together, and it will help them become more confident the more they work with each other.
It increases communication and team-building skills.
Most classrooms have a wide variety of students – kids who come from different countries, different families, different cultures, and even kids who might speak a different language. All of these aspects will help students increase their communication skills as they have to work on understanding others and being patient with those who might have a harder time getting their thoughts across.
This will help students find the strengths of others and learn how to build a team that works well together. Not only that, but having students work with everyone in the classroom can create a classroom community of caring and empathetic students.
Creative Ways To Make Partners and Groups in the Classroom
There are many different ways to make partners and groups in the classroom that will be effective, efficient, and successful.
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1. Deck of cards
For this method, you will need a deck of cards. It doesn’t have to be a new deck – it will not be used for anything else. Count out how many cards you need. If you only have 20 students, you will only need 10 cards. Now, you will cut those cards in half – literally, with scissors. Hand out the halves to different students, and when it’s time to match up with a partner, that partner will be whoever has the other half of the card. Try these playing cards.
2. Mondays Made Easy Cards (also available in French)
These Partner Pairing cards are cards that partner together to make partners. Cards would be matched up based on what two cards go together, such as “nachos” and “cheese,” or “basketball” and net.” As there are more than 50 cards in this resource, you’ll have to count out the number of cards you’ll need before handing them out.
These cards come in a group of 4 to a sheet, each one as a different set – numbers, Morse code, deck of cards, and Pilot alphabet. To use them, you will place a sheet with all four sections on a desk. Then, hand out the individual cards to your students, and the four students whose cards match the 4 sections on the sheet on the desk will sit together. You can also use these to make partners by cutting the main sheet so it has 2 different sections to a sheet. Students will then match up their cards to those two sections to make partners.
For this method, the teacher will hand out popsicle sticks at the beginning of the year, and students will write their names on the sticks. They are called the “Sticks of Destiny” because the sticks decide who will partner up together. Simply dump the sticks on a desk and choose two to go together. These also work for choosing who will be called on to answer a question. For students who can’t be spontaneously called on, you can let them know ahead of time that they will be called on (and tell them which question) so they are prepared.
Check out these two different sizes of popsicle sticks – small and large. I have always used the small size, but a co-worker used the large size, and I thought I should switch the next time I made these.
These grouping pencils are another great partner-matching tool. These grouping pencils have three different attributes – a number, a colour, and a shape. Mix it up and choose differently each time to keep your students guessing. Depending on how many students you have in your class, they are very flexible to use and would be great for group work. Just hand them out when you’re ready to make partners or groups, and then decide how you want to choose partners or groups. These Student Grouping Pencils are durable and will last a long time.
6. Number Students
This is the old-fashioned way of picking partners that a lot of teachers are probably familiar with. This requires no extra props or tools; instead, the teacher will number their students and then say who will go together. This is great for working in teams – just number students as 1, 2, 1, 2, etc. Or, you could use it for groups. If your class has 20 students and you want groups of 4, number the students as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then, all students with the same number will go together.
7. Use The Class List Numbers
Similar to numbering students off, you can put numbers on a class list at the beginning of the year, and those are the student numbers for the entire year. This way, students can memorize their numbers, and you can pair them off in various ways. You can have odds and evens go together, or consecutive numbers go together or make up your own sets of numbers on sheets of paper that you can put under a document camera or place on the board so students know which number they are pairing up with. In the event that a new student comes to the class, they will just get the next consecutive number.
Ultimately, these different ways to make partners are to get students working with different people and get them moving around in the classroom. We always want to make sure that everyone feels included and that everyone has a say in the conversation, so these different ways to make partners and groups in the classroom are a great start toward that.