5 Essential Partner Routines

By on April 27, 2015

We have identified a few powerful teaching strategies to help establish routines and expectations for partner work in an elementary classroom. Even if you teach older students, these routines can be used to add structure and establish expectations. Model your expectations early and often and find ways to incorporate collaborative activities whenever possible.

Activity What do teachers do? What do students do?
Working in Pairs Practice moving in and out of pairs. Teach students how to point to where they will go next if moving in and out of stations. This helps them focus before they move.

For conversational partner work, students sit knee to knee so they can make eye contact.

For Pair Peer Review or partner reading, students sit side by side and share the paper or book.

Decide Who Goes First Establish a routine for students to choose who goes first. Rock, paper, scissors is a quick and easy way to do this. Let students know when to switch.

Practice a routine for choosing who goes first.

When in pairs, students should wait for the teacher’s instructions.

Language Support

Post sentence starters in the room or develop table cards for students to use while speaking or writing.

Greet each other with a handshake and a “Hello.”

Raise hands or give a thumbs up to show when partners have shared. This will keep the small talk to a minimum and keep the activity moving.

Be Present

Walk around the room, listen in, and give guidance or redirection when necessary.

Check in frequently through the partner sharing process.

Sit in pairs and share ideas or work together to complete a task.

Take turns listening to their partners.

Call to

Establish a “call to attention” strategy like all hands up. Raise your hand and teach all students to follow your hand into the air. Countdown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. By the time you reach one, all students are quiet.

Stop. Put materials down. Look and listen to the teacher. Wait for instructions.

Find more ideas for partner routines in our new K-1 and 2-3 Teacher Guides. We provide great ideas and activities for teaching CCR-aligned reading, speaking, and writing skills.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
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