2009 Age 7-9: Y3/4 (2/3 Grade US)

Askern Spa Junior School

1. Random Talk Partners

2. To become active learners.

3. Implementation with a new group of children in September and ongoing throughout the year.

4. Setting ground rules

Children help to create rules for implementing successful talk partners

How to listen carefully, respond to partners, and accept others’ viewpoints and opinions. These are displayed for all to see.

Modelling good talk partners

Teacher and teaching assistant model a good talking partner and a bad talk partner scenario. Children then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both in respect of learning.

Choosing talk partners

Talk partners are chosen each week. Photographs on playing cards. A random shuffling of cards takes place and then the top card is turned over and shown to the children. The next card is turned over and they are paired together. [The children decided that if they have been paired, during the previous term, then the second card [person] would be replaced within the pack of cards and a new partner would be turned over.]

Individual Thinking Time

Children are given individual thinking time – to gather their thoughts and consider their responses.

Pair and Share

Children then turn to their talk partner and they share information – their knowledge and understanding, their thoughts and feelings.


Children in their talk partner pairing then join with another pair to share their own ideas and information.

Hot Seating

One child is hot seated and they are asked questions to develop a story line or develop information regarding a topic.

Focussed Talk – Time Allowed

Prior to the activity beginning, the children are given an amount of time to discuss the issues. This focuses the individuals’ thoughts and responses to produce an ‘answer’ rather than getting side tracked and away from the learning objective.

Feeding Back Information from the Above Activities:

No Hands Up

Children are asked not to put their hands up. The teacher or teaching assistants involve different children to respond to questioning. Children who rarely answer questions, are then encouraged to take a more active part in the activity.

Partner Answers

Children are asked to relate the thoughts and ideas which their partners have been discussing. This ensures that all the children have listened carefully and have taken an active part in the discussion. It also enables the lower ability children to respond with answers which they may not have been able to produce prior to the discussion taking place: knowledge, understanding and vocabulary show improvement.


Asking children to respond by choosing from the corners and the middle of the carpet area [like wrapping a parcel] ensures that children remain on task as they may be chosen to answer a question.


Different types of questioning is important to elicit different answers.

Talk Partners Across The Curriculum:

The children opted to have the same partner for every day during the week. This ensured that children were on task quicker. They would sit on the carpet together.

‘Find a Partner’ was replaced by find your talk partner. This allowed everyone to become involved and no one was left out.

There have been occasions when a talk partner has been absent so the ‘spare’ child has made a trio partnership.

5. Resources

The children’s photographs were taken and mounted on playing cards. These were then laminated. When the talk partners have been chosen, they are then placed in a display board [partners together] for all to see. The visual display can then be used by supply teachers so they can continue the strategy.

Ground rules can be made and displayed alongside the display board and then they can be referred to if necessary.

Questions. Different types of questions need to be collected to develop the children’s thinking skills and responses.

Teaching Assistants. They are invaluable as they can become involved not only developing the children’s knowledge and understanding and their language skills but also their observations can be used to assess the children during ‘talk time’.

6. Outcomes – Impact on Learning

Children’s speaking and listening skills have shown improvement. They have become more adept at answering questions with confidence. The children are more tolerant of each other’s views. Those children who would normally sit back and let the more vocal ones monopolise the discussions now have a chance to get their views across and heard. All children now take an active part in discussion times.

Individual thinking time, followed by pairing and sharing and snowballing have given all children a variety of information to use which not only helps them in their knowledge and understanding but helps in developing their vocabulary too.

Setting a time limit for focussed talk was an issue at first but the children soon realised that there was a set time limit and they are now more focussed.

Children have become more active in their learning. They are more prepared to question each other’s views, in a respectful way. They have more involvement in their own learning as they create questions which they need to find the answers to when starting new topics.

Children now have a chance to work with those who they normally wouldn’t be with. Circles of friends are widening and social skills are improving. All children take an active part and no one is left out.

It has also removed the ‘best children’ being chosen first and the same children being left till the end. This has been noticeable when using talk partners for other curriculum areas, for example PE. There is now no arguing who their partner is going to be. They also get a chance to work with other children who may not be achievers in literacy or maths but are high achievers in physical activities: this improves the children’s confidence and self esteem.

Children are working more cooperatively. When they first started, not having had talk partners in their previous class, they were very reticent to work with some pairings. Now the situation has changed considerably. Pairings, which I thought would never work, have been a resounding success. I was surprised to find that one of the best pairings was with two boys who never really worked or played well together. They saw their pairings as separate from ‘normal’ work and they both did really well.

7. Plans for Future

Talk partners will continue to play an important part in my future classes as it has had such an impact on developing the children into active learners.

I will be encouraging more positive acknowledgement of having a talk partner by encouraging the use of Certificates to identify positive aspects of working with their talk partner. This will further enhance the children’s confidence and self esteem.

8. Evaluations and Recommendations

Having used ‘Talk Partners’ in my classroom with two different cohorts of children I can honestly say that it has improved the way the children have been learning.

They have become more thoughtful in the way they respond to each other. There has been an obvious improvement in the types of discussions that have taken place. Their listening skills have also shown improvement.

The types of questions they create at the start of topics show that they are developing more of an enquiring mind.

Children are more tolerant of each other. They accept each other now for the skills they have rather than for their lack of abilities.

Having had two classes who have not had talk partners before, I am interested in finding out how children will respond when they come into the class with this experience behind them as I am sure more active learning will be able to take place straight away: leading to responsive, enquiring learners.