Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin
Teachers had used talk partners flexibly, snowballing to 4s as needed. Students like talking about their ideas.
Notecards had been used to randomise the partnerships. Students are excited about the change but now are focused on the learning rather than who they are with once they start talking. They are now more accepting of change. They are talking to students they may never have spoken to.
One teacher changes partners several times in one lesson, depending on the needs of the lesson. Experiences shared are then wider but some students are feeling that they have to teach themselves or rely on talk partners.
Talk partners are well established. Talk time if limited creates more meaningful discussion.
One teacher has informal group discussion which led to great conversations.
Another teacher found that upper level girls were not talking if placed randomly with someone they didn’t like. The teacher felt conflicted about choice of seats versus random because of this.
One teacher changed weekly but found it was too hectic, so partners now change after every lesson.
Kentucky (all subjects)
Teachers had created lollysticks with children’s names on. At first students were not happy about being paired up with others that they don’t normally associate with. Once they got used to it they loved it.
Most teachers had children peer evaluating and found that students were vague on their descriptions of their talk partner. Over time their comments became more detailed.
One teacher created a T chart with the class for the characteristics of a good talk partner. All students were actively engaged describing the different aspects of a talk partner.
Most teachers had no hands up and felt that students were now getting more comfortable with that. Their homework is showing that they received help from other students. Talk partners helped children find their mistakes and gives them confidence in their answers.
Using chair numbers to choose seats and pair partners helped participation and cooperation skills. Random seats had also been generated by computer.
Students were now being asked to compare answers and discuss any differences which had helped build their confidence.
Some children hate talk partners, but it makes them learn new social skills.
Teachers loved the talk partner strategy. Popsicle sticks or computer randomisers were used to generate the random partners and seats were changed every two weeks. Desks had been arranged on arrow shapes so all could face the front yet talk together.
The classes are less cliquey and mixed ability has enabled struggling students to participate.
Talk partner success criteria had been created by students and all benefited from this.
One teacher uses talk partners in all classes, changing them weekly, choosing partners with popsicle sticks. She surveyed students to see how it had helped and responses included less chaos and better working environment. One class asked for the changes to be done on Friday so they were ready for the next week. Students were excited about their new partners and talk partners have been successful in most classes. They are very focused on their learning and many excellent questions come up that promote whole class discussion, even from students who normally don’t participate. One student said ‘Getting a new talk partner is like getting a fresh start in the class.’
I was felt that students’ ability to explain a concept to someone else really showed their understanding of it.
Kentucky (maths only)
Teachers have random talk partners but accommodation is made for children with behaviour or learning difficulties. No one is ever without a partner and partners change each week. Some students didn’t want to separate at first. Teachers had difficulty at first giving up control of who sat where but found talk partners wonderful. ‘Students live for talk partners.’
Students are more trained to talk to one another and to the class. More time is spent on content and less time spent socialising.
Having to say what their partner or someone in the group said has made students more focused.
Students were given a questionnaire about talk partners. Almost all said they liked them and the change every week.
In the first couple of weeks students were introduced to talk partners and the expectations were discussed. Students created a list of expectations, what talk partners should look like and this was reinforced continually. When they are off task, students are asked which expectation they didn’t follow and how to fix their actions. The list is used for re-teaching.
After a couple of weeks, random talk partners became good partners. The class is more manageable and other classes have followed. Some change weekly, some fortnightly and it was found that there are fewer complaints if the change is weekly. Students have expressed a positive attitude towards this and all write a positive note to their partner at the change of partners.
With the ‘U’ shape of furniture students were helping each other more readily.
All teachers felt that talk partners had been successful and would like to provide more useful opportunities for discussions.
There is better communication of maths skills and students are more on task with talk partners. They are also more accountable and ask more questions about the mathematics.
Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin, USA
Patricia Deklotz | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Zeidler | email@example.com
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK
Mel Shackleton | firstname.lastname@example.org