Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin
Teachers had found that students have a chance to talk to everyone with talk partners which builds a community. Everyone is growing together and there is ownership of the community.
Being with a partner means students can defer to what others have said rather than being in isolation.
One teacher has cards for each child which the teacher moves randomly for the change. Students with significant difficulties are in a group of 3 or 4.
Students really like talk partners. They learn to communicate with different types of people and learners and learn acceptance. There is also efficiency, transitioning, practice and organisation being developed.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
One teacher described a class heavy with boys and cliques which had divided the class. Children now love working with a random partner and accept being with anyone. Fears of ‘I don’t want to be with that person’ had been dealt with by children. In one class the pairs choose where they sit, which has sometimes meant teacher intervention is needed.
Another teacher was dreading chatty boys or girls being paired but was surprised at how well they worked together.
Teachers don’t use mixed ability for guided reading and have found some subjects easier than others, especially where talking is vital for that lessons.
One teacher still has ability groups, so has stopped talk partners for those subjects. Another teacher was apprehensive about removing ability groups but after trying mixed ability with talk partners will not be returning to ability grouping. Children challenge themselves and lower achievers are going for harder challenges and are helping each other to achieve.
The hands up culture was disappearing and there was more discussion, with children more eager to answer. Talk partners has encouraged quiet children, who have to give their idea.
Talk partners was very successful and supportive for children with English as an additional language.
One teacher felt it was important to be flexible:
After the first session (with Shirley), I went back into class and introduced talk partners (changing weekly). One girl said that she really enjoyed talking to her partner because she hadn’t ever spoken to him before. This is a Year 4 class, so they had been together for many years! Every week the whole class really looks forward to talk partner change and review.
Kentucky (all subjects)
All teachers had introduced talk partners and a success criteria chart, which students refer to with their partner.
Children were excited about working with someone new each week and are willing to learn from other students and seem to get along with them better. ‘I get to share my ideas with others because I don’t like keeping them to myself’ said one child.
Kentucky (maths only) all elementary children
All teachers had introduced random talk partners changing weekly. Children were working more cooperatively and fewer hands were up. Everyone has to answer and explain. IT took a little time to get going but has aided conversation and social skills. Children are excited to reply. The random selection makes all children responsible and group conversations are more common: ‘Someone at my table said…’
Some teachers had rearranged the seating so that all were facing forward yet could still talk to their partner. This had increased talk and engagement.
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