It Takes Two: Partner Pairing Made Easy (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 6)

Here are two simple, but effective strategies to make partner pairing go soothly & without stress.  My classes average 32+, even in AP, so effective use of partners is critical to student success.

#1:  PikMe.  This tech tool is really helpful for groups of 2+.  This free app is a bit of a pain to set up, but the payoffs are worth it.  In its simplest form, enter the names from your rosters into the classes you create in the app.


This is the opening screen with my classes I created.


A glimpse of a class list.  You can add photos to the roster.


The magic happens when you click “student groups”


This is a dual spinning wheel. Select the group size & it will automatically separate students into the correct number of groups.  Or select the number of groups & it will divide the students up based on that.

Once you have set your parameters, click create.  Your student groups will appear on your phone, ready to go.   You can rearrange students from the list the app creates by simply dragging and dropping names to different spots on the list. Notice too that you can send the list to another location (laptop, etc.) with the icon in the upper right corner.

As I mentioned, setting up the rosters is tedious.  But once that step is done, setting up randomized groups takes about 15 seconds–and that is a big help!

#2: Partner Pages (the low tech option).  This tool is really helpful for groups of 2.  These are a variation of a “partner clock” where students sign up classmates to be their partners for various activities that we will do throughout a unit.    The twist:  instead of signing up for a time slot on a clock, they sign up to be partners for vocabulary or cultural concepts.

For example, right now we are working on a unit based around entertainment, especially music, film, and tv.  Here is the sign up sheet that we used today:

entertainment partner sign up.001

Each of the pictures is a vocab term/target that we are using in the unit.  I make a new sheet for each unit and just adjust the photos & terms to that unit.  For example, I have a couple that have the flags from Spanish speaking countries, one on Las Meninas, and another on preferred activities.  The only caveat: finding concrete things that can be illustrated clearly.  Cantar?  easy!  Sin embargo?  Nope.  Here’s a copy of the sheet shown above: entertainment partner sign up

Here’s the logistics of rolling it out in class:

  1.  Each student has a sheet
  2. They need to write their names at the top.
  3. Model the process on the board.  I project the image so that they can see exactly what I want them to do.
  4. They need to find 10 people to be their partners, one at a time.
  5. This is super important:  Student A & Student B agree to be partners.  Student A writes Student B’s name on Student A’s paper.   Student B writes Student A’s name on Student B’s paper.  In other words, students need to make sure to write down the OTHER student’s name on their papers in the boxes provided.
  6. I don’t allow students to repeat partners at this stage.
  7. After about 5 minutes of signing up partners (lots of ¿Cómo te llamas practice going on!), I send them back to their seats even if they aren’t finished.
  8. We then ask for a show of hands for who has gaps to fill for each picture.  I pair them up, trying to avoid duplication.  There are times where we will not be able to avoid duplicating at this stage, and it’s ok.
  9. If there is an odd number of students or if there is ONE student without a partner for a given pic, that student is the Wild Card.  This means that this student is your sub for that pairing when someone else’s partner is absent or s/he gets to pick another group to add on to make a group of 3.
  10. Have students take a photo of their completed sheet so that they can recreate the pairings if they lose their sheets.

Thoughts on implementation:

  • You have 10 pairs ready to go.  You can do a lot of paired activities in a short amount of time without repeating partners.
  • Students have choice in this process.  They pick their partners.
  • You can strategically select pairs that you want to use… and those that you want to avoid. ;|
  • It makes a challenging component of classroom management easier.  I include the designated partner in the directions I give students:  “Take out your reading activity.  Find your __ partner.  Sit together to complete __” and then I’m free to assist and support instead of matching up reluctantly social students and running the risk of needing to mediate “I don’t want to work with her!”

What strategies have been helpful to you for student grouping?  Please share in the comments!



3 thoughts on “It Takes Two: Partner Pairing Made Easy (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 6)

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