Making Pairs in the Classroom

Making spontaneous pairs is one of my least favourite parts daily classroom life, but it is so, so necessary.  We know that cooperative learning is a key component of success at the elementary level and beyond.  But when it comes to the inevitable "Think, pair, share...." , or "Work in partners...", or "Grab a buddy..."  I know that someone will be left out.  

I can always see my students making eye contact with each other, signaling 'Will you be my partner?'

Sometimes I have partners assigned ahead of time, and other times they are told to talk to an 'elbow buddy' (someone they can touch with their elbow without moving from their current spot).

This year, I added in Animal Pairs to randomly assign partners, and it is going so well!

This does not work as well if you don't want random groups.  If you are looking to strategically pair up strong/struggling students, or chatty/quiet students, you may want a different system.  But if you want a way to pair up students that is completely random, gives a quick brain break, and forces students to step outside of their friendship comfort-zones, look no further!

First, grab some large craft sticks.  I bought mine at the dollar store.  I have 24 students, so I took out 24 sticks.  Then I chose 12 animals.  I wrote each animal's name on a stick twice.  (Two zebras, two elephants, two kangaroos, etc.)

Place all of the sticks in a jar, and mix them up!

Then, allow each student to draw one stick out of the jar and tell them to find their animal pair.  You may want to set a time limit.  Sometimes, I give them an action as well.  

"Find your animal buddy while hopping on one foot!"

 This helps to get out some of their wiggles while they find their partner.

It's not a perfect system, but I rarely have any complaints.  In fact, they often beg for the animal sticks.  If we are going to have partners for a project, discussion, or quick pair/share my class would far prefer it be through random animal pairs.

I would love to hear how you choose partners in your classroom?  Do you have a method that works well to keep students from being leftout, or the same pairs from being chosen each time?  Sound off in the comments below!

- Rachel