In a recent post, I wrote about using TED talks to create a
positive classroom culture. However, creating an inclusive learning environment
takes multiple activities, and establishing student comfort for participation is
one of the most important things a teacher can do.
With this in mind, I’ve developed strategies that let
students “partner, practice, and participate.”
Basically, it gives students a chance to meet in pairs and practice
sharing their ideas with one person before sharing them in a whole class
discussion. This is especially important
at the beginning of the year when many students feel anxious or shy. It also helps to involve ALL of the students-
not just the extroverted ones who will sometimes monopolize the class
Of course, if I let students choose their partners, they will
usually go to their friends. That’s okay
sometimes, but I want them to work with everyone in the class. So here are some ideas for getting students
into random pairs:
1. Use popsicle sticks. At the beginning of the school year, write
each student’s name on a “participation” stick and keep them in a
container. When you want students to
pair with one another, just pull two out at a time. You can also involve your students in
choosing names by walking around and having students “pull” participation
sticks, too. This can also be used when
making small groups.
2. Play music and have
students walk around the room. When the
music stops, they partner with the student standing closest to them. Want to get students even more involved? Let them pick the music (school appropriate,
3. Use apps that
randomly generate partners. Although I
haven’t used these yet, I plan to start this year:
Stick Pick: It is similar to the popsicle sticks technique.
Select Spinners: The Partner Picker randomly picks Partner A or Partner B with each spin. These can also be used for larger groups.
4. Use traditional
methods like “turn and talk.” I find
this works best when I have carefully planned the class’s seating arrangements,
so students are sitting next to others of varied abilities, interests, and high
school social “status.”
5. Finally, here’s another
easy strategy that doesn’t require any preparation: Just direct
students to find partners by giving them a common characteristic. For instance, tell them to meet with someone
who has the same birthday month, someone wearing the same color, someone whose
favorite food is the same…really the options are endless. You can also ask students to create the pairing
What do you do to partner students in your classroom? Share in the comments below.