Working in partners can sometimes be a duanting task for students. Who do I work with? Can I work with that person? What happens if I work with someone that I don't know well? All these questions come in to play when students are asked to work with a partner.
As teachers, we often place students strategically into pairs or small groups based on ability, behavior, or social skills. However, sometimes, we need to let students work with a peer they are comfortable working with, especially when we are asking them to "turn and talk" and complete a task. On the third grade level, boys don't often want to work with girls and girls don't want to work with boys. With that in mind, I do give students some choices when having to work with a peer.
To get my students working in partners and more importantly talking to their partner, I created a monthly buddy system. It's a lot like clock buddies but a little easier.
This month, I passed out "October Buddies" to my students. I explained that each student was going to put their name in each block in the first column. Then go find a buddy and put their name in the block next to your name in the second column. Your partner, then puts your name next to their name. So, when the teacher says, "Find your acorn buddy and sit with them." The kids look on their chart and see their name and their partner's name.
I used October Buddies a couple of times in the classroom and it worked out really well. To introduce our new story, I asked students to find their scarecrow buddy and sit with them. I introduced the "Question of the Week" and asked students to "turn and talk" and write down their response on a piece of lined paper. Our question, which I loved, was "How do we achieve our goals?" (Kumak's Fish). The students loved talking about what their goal was and how they had achieved that goal. I wrote their responses on a piece of large chart paper and put their initials next to each repsonse.
Now, that I had many responses, I wanted to get kids talking.
One of my goals this year, is to engage students in focused, rich, engaging conversation. So, I need to get kids engaged in a topic, focused on a topic, then sharing their answers while in a conversation with a peer or even better, the whole class.
I then introduced the talking stem "I agree with ___________."
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I then had students talk to their partner about who they agreed with in class and I had the students write down:
1. Who they agreed with
2. What that student's response was
3. Why they agreed with that student
I gave the students the chance to write their response on a paper and talk to their partner. I then asked students to share their responses. At first I only had a few hands up, but as time went on, more and more students wanted to be part of the conversation.
One of my favorite responses was:
"I agree with Johnny's response, "working hard and not giving up helps us to achieve our goal." I once had to work really hard in football practice to be able to score a touchdown at my football game. It took a long time, but I did it! " Then another student added on, "I also agree with Johnny, I had to work really hard in math last year, but I didn't give up and I ended up really liking math."
In ten minutes time, I had each student sharing their thoughts to discuss a topic. They were sharing their thoughts, engaged in a topic, and talking to their peers! Objective Done!
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