/ Lesson tips, New to ELT, Teachers

The dynamic of a lesson depends very much on the variety of used social forms (individual work, pair-work, group-work, whole class discussion, etc.). However, students often get stuck with the same partner. Asking students to work in pairs is good, but without swapping pairs, it is not as efficient as expected. Here are 10 tips on how to pair up students:

Tips to pair up students

1. The most common way is that you (the teacher) decide who is to work with whom in pairs.
2. The second most common way is that students pick their partner, however, avoid this option if there are less popular students in your class.
3. Collect some cards with pictures, flashcards or magazine photos and cut them in half, the way that every student has one picture piece. Ask students to choose one piece and then find their partner (the missing half). If you have an odd number in the class, cut one picture in three.
4. On cards write questions and answers to them (the same numbers as the students are), give each student one card. They can then find their partner by mingling. In case students are odd number, write two possible answers to one of the questions.
5. Ask students to line up in any way, e.g. from the tallest to the shortest, in alphabetical order based on their first names, from the youngest to the oldest or their birthdays in a year, etc.). Then put them 2 after 2 in pairs.
6. Play with them Find someone who… with questions like Find someone who can swim. Find someone who speaks a foreign language, etc. Ask student to mingle and interview each other and find a partner. Both of them should answer positively to their partner’s question, so write easy ones (who lives in the school’s city or has a sister or a brother, etc.), make only half of the questions a bit more difficult (who can count up to 10 in Spanish or sing a song in English, etc.).
7. Ask students to find something in common with one of the students in the class while mingling. Things in common can be easy: we both live in the city center, but they cannot repeat what others have already said. They play it until every student finds a partner.
8. Before the class arrives, line up the chairs in two lines, facing each other and ask the arriving students to sit wherever they want to. Friends tend to sit next to each other. At this point, ask them to work with the student in front of them.
9. Ask students to choose a class mate they have never worked with before. After a while, every student should have worked with everyone else in the class.
10. Ask students to open their books at any page and then ask them for the page number. You can put students with an odd page number together with students with an even page number or you can pair up students based on the page numbers (from the smallest number to the highest).

Very often little things can bring salt and pepper to your lesson, for example, doing the next exercise with a new partner. By swapping students, you can also experiment which pairs work well together or help each other.

You can also use some of these tips to make small groups out of a big class.


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