All teachers had changed random partners weekly. Children love it. When they are placed with someone who is not a friend they actually thrived and worked well together. A child who might not have the best reputation ended up being a fantastic learning partner. Random was essential, as choosing specific partners did not work.
In one school a middle achieving child was notoriously difficult, often unkind. With lots of encouragement she now understands how to speak to another child. Teachers had trained children how to speak to each other.
Whole class success criteria for effective talk had been created by 2 of the 3 teachers. This is referred to all the time and used to prompt children’s compliment slip comments.
Compliment slips were preferred in a book. Children are really proud of these books and love reading them back over.
All teachers had tried snowballing the pairs to 4s, which was particularly useful when they were struggling with ideas.
Two high achievers were paired with each other randomly and by Day 2 they were both angry with each other and barely speaking. I put a social skills group with a TA in place, where they had to work collaboratively and complement each other. Things slightly improved and they tolerated each other for the rest of the week. A few months later, they were paired up again. I placed them near to me, so I could monitor their relationship. I didn’t need to intervene at all. They worked together so much better and could both recognise how they could challenge each other in a more amicable manner. Neither had really been challenged mathematically before and now they recognised they could actually achieve more if they worked together on a super challenge. They will never be best friends, but socially and academically they have made great progress.Kay Wyman – Dorchester Primary
SC – I think their experience of working with other pairs in the meantime probably developed their tolerances and helped them learn to appreciate other children’s strengths and weaknesses and individual characters.
Historically, one high achieving child in my class wasn’t able to work with a learning partner. She wasn’t kind or helpful and is possibly on the spectrum, so had to sit by herself. Reassured by the high success rate of Clarke’s random talk partners, I have included her and randomly paired her every week with everyone else. The difference in her attitude and ability to help her peers has been huge. She now feels more included and makes a helpful and successful partner.Lucy Jones – Holy Trinity C of E Primary