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How to Partner Students in Centers Effectively

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Collaboration is one of the best ways for students to grow in their learning. Why? It’s simple! Students are great at helping each other out. This is just one reason why it is so important to partner students in centers in your classroom. When you partner students in centers, you don’t want to just do it randomly. It’s important that your students are partnered up strategically. So, how do you make sure your students are well partnered up? You follow this guide and make your learning centers even stronger!

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From Groups to Partnering Students for Learning Centers

When you are putting your groups together, you want to make sure there are not more than six students. Having more than six students in a group can cause classroom management problems and not everyone will be able to get as much out of the centers. When you break your groups down to partners, you should not have more than three students in the group.

For example, if you have your third graders working on digital centers, you can have six students in a center, but have two computers available. By having two computers available, students can work in two groups of three max. If you didn’t want to use the same activity, you can also have two activities at the same center. You can keep track of where each student needs to be by having them wear  lanyards. Making simple labels that are easy to sanitize with a laminator and easy to use laminating pouches. These can be easy to color code so you know exactly where all your little second graders need to be no matter how many groups you have. You can learn more about partner tags in my Learning Centers Made Easy™ Master Class!

What’s Your Partnering Strategy?

When you are deciding how to partner students for learning centers, you need to decide if you’re going to use heterogeneous groups or homogenous groups.

Partnering Students in Heterogeneous Groups

If you partner students for learning centers heterogeneously, you are going to put students who are different levels together. When you do this, your students can do more teaching. For example, you can have a fourth grader who is at a higher level be the leader of the group and help guide students who are struggling. While this can be effective is the student knows how to help without simply giving the answer, it might not be the best choice to reach every student at every level. If you teach younger grades, like kindergarten, it would be much more difficult for one to effectively teach the others or help them without giving the answers.

Another drawback of using heterogeneous groups is the amount of time you will spend on certain students when they get to you. Remember, when you do learning centers, you are one of the centers. When a heterogeneous group gets to you, it will be more difficult to teach to the various levels in the group. This may cause you to lose the ones that are struggling or bore the ones who are ahead.

Learning Centers with Partners in Homogeneous Groups

If heterogeneous groups don’t sound ideal, homogenous groups might be for you. A homogenous group partners students in learning centers who are at similar levels. I personally prefer this grouping method because it makes your center more productive. When students get to your center, you can push them to the next level or concentrate on skills that need to be fixed. By having a homogenous partnered student group, you will have maximum impact at least at the center you are at. I feel this is especially effective for younger students when they are working in centers because they don’t always know how to help each other.

On the contrary, if you have a homogenous group, your students who are lower level, might not have as much growth without the help of students who are at a higher level. Sometimes, students learn better from each other and in a homogenous group, this is less likely to happen because they are all on the same level. Students who are gaining more independence, like fifth graders, might also struggle with homogenous groups.

Using Both Group Types in Learning Centers

There are pros and cons of both heterogeneous and homogenous groups. You can get the best of both worlds if you put three higher level students and three mid-level students together in a group. When you break out into partners, the three like students can work together. The great part about this tactic is the other group is right there and can offer help. Therefore, you get the benefit of strong student collaboration while still getting to work with all students where they are at when they get to you.

Another way to get the best of both words is to have two low, two middle, and two high students in a group. Then when you split off into partners, have two low and one medium and two high and one medium as partners. This can be great practice for students in younger grades like first and second to learn how to help someone without simply giving answers. Plus, you can keep track of students by using these awesome lanyards.

Partner Tags Created by an Educational Rockstar in my Learning Centers Made Easy™ Masterclass

Who’s Moving Where and When?

When you are putting your groups together, you need to think about how many times you want them to move around. Scheduling your centers is so important to deciding how big your student groups can be. For example, if you are working with first graders and want to have a shorter time, you are going to have to have larger groups so students have enough time on each center. On the other hand, if you are working with older students like third or fourth graders, you can usually take more time.

Why You Need to Partner Students for Learning Centers

Overall, students learn best from each other. They speak each other’s language. While we try our best to talk to our students in a way they understand, we will never be as good at this as their peers are. Having teacher and peer support is the best way to help students grow. This not only helps with learning academics; students also learn how to overcome social obstacles like disagreements.

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Collaboration is one of the best ways for students to learn and grow both academically and socially. When you partner students for learning centers, they get the help from not just you and the activities in the centers, but also from each other. As a teacher, one of our goals is to teach ourselves out of a job. Partnering students for learning centers is one of the best ways to do that.

Until Next Time,

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