All teachers said they had introduced random talk partners and that this had the biggest impact on practise and learning. Because the lessons were now mixed ability the perceived ceiling had been removed and teachers were now supporting more children. Higher achievers were challenged by having to support their partner by explaining concepts in different ways. Notable achievement and success was observed from partners helping each other. Children also enjoy having learning partners and love the fairness. Planning is easier for the teacher. The impact on lower achievers has been most beneficial and they can repeat what their partner said when asked. There can be both positive and negative effects when higher achievers are sitting with lower achievers.
Children now look to each other for support rather than going straight to the teacher.
It was useful to relate learning partners to real life future situations children would find themselves in. Sometimes children were forced outside their comfort zone by being paired with someone they were not sure of.
Two teachers used compliment slips which children wrote to each other which they said had improved children’s self-efficacy.
One boy refused to sit next to girls for 2 terms. He now works happily alongside them as talk partners has become the norm.
Some teachers changed partners on Friday, some on Monday. Children love it and are excited to know who their partner will be. New friendships have been formed.
In one school children were placed in sets and partnerships were not random but planned. This only had good impact with the higher sets so it was felt that behaviour was much better when students in secondary were given a seating plan.
It was observed that if a child was with someone they didn’t gel with they became passive and didn’t engage. There was a question that by Y6 maybe it is too late to introduce (not what has been said in most teams SC).
The naughtiest children are excited by having a new partner changing weekly.
It has increased their confidence in relationships with others as this teaches them how to deal with new people.
Collective student efficacy
One child with EAL in Year 6 had only had a few years in education. The impact of talk partners has been huge. Being placed in a 3 it has been incredible how children have collectively helped her. Higher achievers are as challenged as lower achievers as they have to find a variety of ways to explain something misunderstood. Her first talk partners modelled brilliantly for the rest of the class how to support her language and all reacted by showing empathy and embraced her in all the 3s. She is now making great progress, with increased self-efficacy and confidence.
It was felt that 4s ends up with students falling back into pairs, unless they have specific roles.
All teachers had introduced random learning partners changing weekly. This has helped higher achievers in maths, as they have to explain coherently. Discussion with the class about how their reactions might hurt someone’s feelings had improved their empathy towards each other.
Compliments at the end of the week were given verbally ‘I enjoyed learning with you because…’ and were written into their partner’s compliment book. It is endearing to see their comments. Positive friendships have been formed. Children were prompted by being asked ‘What would you want to hear? What did that person do to make your week enjoyable?’ Children have a time to shine because they are receiving comments to boost their confidence.
On a Monday morning, the children come in and sit in their seats from the previous week. The routine is embedded now so that they write straight into their partner’s book. The first time we talked about it. Once they have written in the books, they swap back to read what their partner said and it is so lovely to see the smiles creep on their faces as they read what their partner wrote. One child in particular who is very reserved and quiet has received comments like ‘I felt really listened to’ and ‘I like hearing your voice more’ which means that even if she doesn’t have as much of a whole class presence, she feels really valued as part of her pair. All the class make really thoughtful, personal comments, even if they haven’t had the most enjoyable week. The children now have a book filled with nice things said about themselves which they will be able to take home at the end of the year, a bit like a year book!
Chloe Payne – Earlsfield Primary
All had co-constructed criteria for being an effective talk partner. This has helped children to bond and learn from each other.
Repeated partners occasionally do not work well together so having the same partner 3 times in the year works well.
Children’s attitude has changed to having different partners as they realise this is a life skill. There is noticeable peer support as they want their partner to achieve. This has boosted self-efficacy.
All teachers had changed to rows which allow children to face the front comfortably and the teacher can get to everyone and more easily see who is on track.
Assigning A and B had allowed for assigned roles which have led to high quality discussions.
There had been a very obvious positive impact on children’s writing.
Collective Student Efficacy
Developing a positive attitude is an issue for a lot of the children in my class. I have placed a small lamp in the front which I use as a visual reminder of ‘switching on the light’. The more we think positively, the more the light will shine. The more you think negatively, the darker it will become: bringing across the attitude that you are responsible for the atmosphere/attitude inside you, but also collectively.
Liezel Jacobs – Broadwater Primary
Some teachers changed partners on Monday morning with feedback gven to each other on Friday. This had been successful – friendship issues were relieved, no issues with parents, more discussion, introverted children given opportunities to talk and more understanding of the benefits.
All teachers had a Monday change of random talk partners but found they need to be aware of how well partners will work together. The partners helped lower and higher achievers to participate. Lower achievers are submerged in higher order language. Pupils with more confidence tend to dominate and low achievers might sit back regardless of the pairing. The pairing had allowed the higher achievers to have more impact on their own learning and others’ learning.
A target table was used in some classes which gave an opportunity for all children to get more input if needed.
Lollysticks named and the term learning partners was used. Rows were also introduced. The children have been more cooperative and have worked with peers they would never have usually worked with. There is increased concentration and listening skills. The children love the learning partners, including one child with anxiety. Working with partners increased their confidence.
Compliment slips showed the impact of their cooperation but also developed their self-evaluative, reflective skills. Some examples:
‘I did not know how good you were at art and you helped me…’
‘I did not know I was so bossy so to be a better talk partner I need to listen more.’
(Susie Price, Acklam Primary)
All teachers said they would be starting the new academic years with random learning partners.
Prior to working daily in learning partners one girl (D) would constantly doubt herself in lessons. I believed she could achieve but her self-belief was low. She would regularly cross out the right answer and give a wrong answer. Her own independent work didn’t correspond with her group/pair/practical work in the lesson.
Within weeks of learning partners, D’s confidence had grown: she would always ask ‘Are we working with our partner first?’ D began to help not only her partner, but other partners too. As a result, her independent work began to improve.
Claire French – Green lane Primary Academy School