All teachers had introduced random talk partners which has led to children being able to reflect on their learning: ‘It’s good to have buddies to help us with our learning.’
All had asked children to complete compliment slips to give their partner at the end of the week. These enhanced their self-evaluation and were good to read when children felt sad.
Asking ‘What did your partner say?’ with random named lollysticks choosing had improved children’s listening.
One teacher observed that when children in their pairs are distracted or disruptive it was a good opportunity to focus on the learning powers and it highlighted where support was needed.
Talk partners had led to some reluctant learners now being keen to come to school. Both high and low achievers had advantages from being in a pair. They know they can get support or extend their knowledge.
After asking the children at the start of learning partners what they wanted from this. I then asked again 6 weeks later. Several comments refer to how they want to support others or feel supported. One child also named a child who they knew had learning difficulties which they wanted to help with.
Tim Gibbs – Ruishton Primary
One child who is delayed in his learning and developmentally behind was able to successfully access the learning on angles in maths. If he had been set or the work differentiated he may not have been in that lesson. His high achieving partner was able to direct and support the right amount to enable his success.
Toby Sime – Blackbrook Primary School
Teachers had discussed the strategy with children. At first the children were not pleased to not be with their friends but now expect this and get excited at the change of partners. Quieter children are more confident, clearer in their role during discussions and more confident children are more aware of listening skills. They are more aware of what makes a good learning partnership.
Lollipop sticks are used for the random pick, avoiding same partners two weeks running although one teacher uses an online random generator.
Threes were tried for EAL but pairing was actually more successful.
One teacher used a feedback sheet which children used to celebrate their learning with a partner. They are now more aware of the purpose of talk partners and the skills involved.
Children who really cannot work together, although tried, the impact is detrimental to their learning.
I have found that the use of randomly selected talk partners has had a significantly positive impact on the relationships within the classroom. The children have started to take different roles and use a variety of strategies and their awareness of their learning partner’s needs in order to develop meaningful learning.
With one particular child, who has support with a speech and language therapist, the use of a new learning partner every week has enabled them to understand more social cues and has given them the time to develop their skills with initiating a meaningful conversation. They have more understanding of the needs of others and are now finding it easier to initiate play outside of the classroom and on the playground.
Charlotte Owen – Smallwood Primary
Collective Student Efficacy
Children in pairs demonstrate collective efficacy through rally coaching. Partner A has to ask questions to partner B in order to guide them to the solution. For example, when doing column addition, partner A might only ask partner B questions – they must not tell, show or explain. Then they switch roles. As the teacher, I will move around the class, listening to the coaching to ensure it is effective.
I have found this to be a powerful exercise in deepening understanding and in the reduction of fear of making a mistake as the teacher (Partner A) is responsible for the pupil (Partner B) and their understanding and therefore success.
Children’s belief in their ability to achieve is evident in their discussions, both for themselves and collectively.
Tom Gould – Allfarthing Primary
Talk partners had always been used but now the random component had been added. Teachers had removed ability pairings and had co-constructed success criteria for being a good talk partner. They had also used lollysticks and asked ‘What did your partner say?’ at times. They had modelled how to be a good talk partner.
Random talk partners had developed children’s strengths and weaknesses and given low achievers more confidence to answer questions. Respect between children had improved. Children are more confident to ask for help from each other and not wait for the teacher. The majority of children are happier to show their mistakes to each other. There are still some children who prefer to work alone. Children are more confident to ask for help. It has improved understanding from a child’s explanation rather than the teacher’s. Listening skills have improved as they have to possibly say what their partner said.
Learning partners have made such a positive impact on children forming new friendships and relationships.
Introducing random talk partners (Y4) was initially a scary concept for one pupil in my class (a looked after child), who didn’t want to work with a high achieving girl. He was disruptive and non-compliant. During talk partner discussion a teaching assistant sat with him as a mediator. He appeared to be disengaged and sat with his back to her but during the feedback his hand was the first one up. His answer was spot on and when asked he said he was just listening to his talk partner. The following morning he was excited and happy coming into school, was sitting ready with his hand on the seat next to him saving the seat for his talk partner. When she arrived she was so excited and happy to hear him calling across the classroom ‘Miss she is here! I’ve saved you a seat – come sit with me.’
Louise Brown – Breckon Hill Primary