January 2009



Having children work with a partner can be a great brain break as well as a powerful teaching strategy. Through partner activities children can develop social skills, cooperation, problem solving, independence, oral language, and creativity. Scaffolding commonly occurs when one child with advanced skills helps a buddy attain a higher level. Many of these games can be used to reinforce skills during transitions or if you have a few minutes at the end of a lesson.

To avoid common behavior problems that can occur when children pick their own partner, try one of these ideas!

Buddy Sticks - Put like stickers on the bottoms of two craft sticks. (You will need as many sticks as there are children in your classroom.) Place sticks in a plastic cup with stickers facing down. Children choose a stick and then find the person whose stick matches theirs. That is their partner.

Put uppercase letters on half of the sticks and lowercase letters on the other half. Children match up letters.

*Hint! When there is an odd number of students, let the last child choose whichever group they would like to be a part of.

Puzzle Pairs - Take valentines or other seasonal cards and cut them in half in puzzle shapes. Children put puzzles together to find their partner.

Animal Pals - Put like animal pictures on 3”x 5” index cards. Children choose a card and then begin walking around as they make that animal sound. When they find a friend making a similar sound, they’ve found their partner!

Elbow Partner – Stick out your elbow and the person you touch is your partner.

Friendship Time – Give each child a handout with the face of the clock.
By the “12” each child writes the names of 3 friends they like to work with. By the “3” they write the names of 3 classmates they’d like to know better. By the “6” the girls write the names of 3 boys and the boys write they names of 3 girls. By the “9” write “free choice.” Before assigning a partner project, the teacher calls out 12, 3, 6, or 9. Students look at their clocks and find a partner.


Read together.

Look at books or magazines together. (ABC Books are great for younger children.)

Do shoulder reading. Children sit facing opposite directions with their shoulders touching. Each child has a copy of the same book. Children can do choral reading or they can nudge their partner when they need help sounding out a word.

Retell a story. They can also discuss who, what, where, when, why, the problem, resolution, what might happen next, etc.

Whisper a prediction in each other’s ear.

Review information after a science lesson, social studies, etc.

Clean up a center or each other’s desks.

Read around the room. Give them pointers and empty glasses frames for more fun.

Write the room. Give them clipboards and ask them to write words that would reinforce a skill you are working on. For example, they could write compound words, words with the “th” diagraph, two syllable words, a word for each letter in the name of the month, etc.

Sing a song or say nursery rhymes together.

Help with dressing, such a zipping coats and tying shoes.

Draw a picture together. They could draw their favorite part of a story, illustrate a poem, draw a picture of their teacher, and so forth.

Do crafts such as lunch sack puppets seasonal projects.

Build together with blocks, Legos, etc.

Play with play dough or clay together. They could make objects that begin with a certain sound, shapes, sets, etc.

Write together. They could write a sentence, story, poem, song, observation, etc. Relate to their skill level.

Play a board game.

Play a computer game.

Review flashcards.

Practice rereading books.

Brainstorm! Make lists!

Do surveys and collect data.

Play hand clap games.

Guess who I am? Children dramatize or pantomime favorite books, rhymes, animals, etc. while their partner tries to guess.

Write letters to each other or to politicians, authors, or other famous people.

Make books together.

Answer questions. Teacher asks a question and they get together to come up with an answer they agree on.

Make shapes and letters with their fingers or bodies.

Do puzzles together.

Check each other’s work.

Edit each other’s writing.

Work on vocabulary. One child calls out a word while the other child gives the definition.

Practice spelling words. One friend calls out a word for their partner to spell.

Play “Mirror.” One child is the leader and the other child is the “mirror” and must mimic what the leader does. Switch roles after a minute.

Do a graphic organizer (Venn diagram, web, T-chart, time line, etc.).

Write on each other’s backs.

Do exercises together.

Work on a science experiment together.

What can YOU add to this list?

Thanks to all the teachers who contributed these ideas. And special thanks to Angie Witte of Fairbanks, IA, for writing all of these down!

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