5 Benefits of Partners in the Classroom

5 benefits of partners in middle school math

It is so important to provide students with a variety of learning experiences in order to meet the needs of different learning styles and to keep students engaged.  Students engage in various activities individually, in pairs, in small groups, and as a whole class.  In my eighth grade math classes, one of my favorite ways to group my students is in pairs.  I have found significant benefits to this setup through the years.  Here are my top 5:

1 – Peer Teaching
Peer teaching is such an incredible mutually beneficial tool.  I group and pair students in a variety of ways.  One method involves matching a struggling learner with a student that has a strong understanding of the current topic.  The struggling learner benefits from hearing an additional explanation, or perhaps a different perspective, and the high-flyer develops a stronger understanding of the material by having to explain the concept aloud in their own words.  Win-Win.

2 – Increased Confidence
The Think-Pair-Share model is fantastic for increasing student confidence in the classroom.  Without the “pair,” I have often found it difficult to find volunteers who are willing to share their ideas.  However, once students have had a chance to compare and discuss their ideas with their neighbor, many more hands end up in the air.  The extra step of confirming that their own thought process is on the right track can sometimes be just enough of a push needed to boost participation.

5 benefits of partners in middle school math

3 – Increased Class Engagement
In a whole class discussion, most students are listening while one individual at a time shares their ideas.  Although there is a time and a place for this model, a disadvantage is that many students will be minimally engaged, if not completely disengaged.  On the other hand, allowing students to chat about a topic with a partner increases classroom participation because many students are able to talk at once.  All students can be engaged in meaningful conversation about the selected topic at the same time.  Often I'll say, "Now take 30 seconds to explain <insert math concept> to your partner."  Everyone talks at once, and I can listen in on specific conversations.

4 – Break from Direct Instruction
Much of my Accelerated Algebra 1 class consists of direct instruction.  Students take notes, try practice problems, then practice some more at home.  I often use frequent partner check-ins during class to break up the traditional direct instruction routine.  Students may be asked to explain a concept that we have just learned to their partner in their own words.  Or often times students try a practice problem on their own, then check answers with their partner and help one another out with any errors or misconceptions.

5 – Face-to-Face Communication
Let’s face it.  Face-to-face communication is not as prevalent in the lives of our students as it has been in ours.  With the rise in social media, many students text, Snapchat, Instagram, tweet, etc with their friends.  Working with a partner, requires use of verbal communication skills that are still imperative in today’s world.  I also love that students may need to branch out and interact with students they would not necessarily talk to outside of class.

Your turn!  How do you use partners in your classroom? 
What other advantages have you witnessed?

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