Children naturally love reading with a partner, and the majority love it if you let them get up and move too. Another reason working in pairs is beneficial is that it provides our students with the opportunity to collaborate, and in today’s workplace, collaboration is key. In fact, I’m collaborating with others today. We are each sharing teaching tips, so I know I’ll learn a few too.
With children though, we need to keep in mind that some find it easy to let one or two lead in a group and do the work, but with just two group members, accountability is a non-issue. Having students work in pairs means high productivity which is especially important during that time when the teacher is working with small groups. If a group isn’t on task, it shows very quickly, so today, I’m going to share a few options I love for working with pairs.
The first option that has become my favorite for both primary and upper elementary students I work with are my partner plays. Last year, I began making partner plays for my fourth and fifth grade groups. The idea came about as I used a Reader’s Theater with my guided reading group. I noticed as I was using one with my group, one of my students had very few lines which is counterproductive when you are wanting to work on fluency, so I looked for two part scripts thinking that would increase the real reading time for my kids. I found a few for young readers and a few for older student, but I still wanted to make sure that the focus was kept on comprehension skills and strategies too. It led me to the decision to write my first set. My plan was to combine the philosophy of Reader’s Theater with the strategies of Close Reading. After all, the idea with Reader’s Theater is that you practice to improve the performance, but with Close Reading, you reread to deepen comprehension, and that was the birth of my partner play idea.
I began them with upper elementary since that is the grade level I was teaching at the time, and in the process of creating them, I also was tasked with a request to review some of the content area concepts too. Ah…another idea…weave in content information and vocabulary into them too. In the end, I came up with a mix of seasonal themes and content themes. Here is an example of one that combines science concepts with fiction. It is about the rock cycle, and it includes many of the terms my students needed to know in their unit. The discussion questions helped them express their thinking and allowed us a chance to review. I also included supplementary materials aimed at concept building and vocabulary.
Seasonal Sets You Might Like for Now:
Save Money with Bundles
In order to save a little money, I’ve bundled them all into one set. The upper elementary bundle includes fourteen plays with before, during, and after reading activities. This bundle is best for students in grades 3-5. Topics included in them are:
🎭 Apple Picking
🎭 Veteran’s Day
🎭 Gift Giving
🎭 Friendship/Grandparent’s Day
Get them all!
As you can see, there’s a wide range of topics. Some are great for any time of the year. Some are seasonal, and some are tied to content areas. This set is best for grades 2-5, and are great for small group or stations.
Partner Plays for Young Readers
So does this idea work for primary? Absolutely! This summer, I worked with a little guy who was finishing first grade reading at a preprimer level. Have you worked with kids at that level? It is tough to find materials that have controlled vocabulary and yet have content to work with. I decided to write what my little guy needed. He loved dogs (and don’t most kids?), and Biscuit books were his favorite, so I came up with the first in my Sam and Max series called Sam and His Dog Max. This is a great one to try out with your students to see if they can work in pairs, if the reading level works for their needs, and if the script holds their interest. It is a forever freebie in my store, so grab it whenever you have a few days in your schedule. It is a timeless story, so it can be used any time of year too.
How They Work
Schema Building and Vocabulary
To begin with, you’ll want to prepare for the reading by building schema for the topic to build interest and to fill in any misconceptions (although with a dog theme, you’re unlikely to have an issue with misconceptions). Once the students are feeling excited about the reading and are prepared, you will pair them up. In the teacher notes, you’ll see one part is more challenging than the other. For the most part, I’ve stuck with Sam as the character with the easier part. I recommend establishing the norms for your classroom for partner work (where they can be/not be, voice level, materials they can/can not have, etc.). If your students work well in pairs, you could proceed. If you have some that require additional guidance (or supervision), you could pull them to your reading table for more directed reading. (and I would pull some to monitor regardless just to get a feel for how your students are handling the text).
Guiding Questions for Paired Discussion
One of the components that comes with each partner script is a set of thinking questions that require a written response. I choose a written response to address sentence construction and putting thoughts to paper. The questions require the student to provide text evidence which is definitely a requirement on state assessments. I allow collaboration and discussion for the questions as I think it helps the students return to the text and forces them to justify their answers if they disagree with their peer.
Repeated Reading and Writing Extension
Finally, the last step (which could be used during reading as well) is a writing page. You can use these for extension of the theme, story retellings, or a specific prompt you ask for. Students can mount them on construction paper and embellish them for hanging (maybe a dog peek over??), write a simple response, glue it in a journal, or by-pass the stationary all together.
Over time, I’ve added more to the series, and there are now fourteen of them. They do get a little more complicated, so keep in mind that the scripts will have a range. You can organize them in any order you choose, and you’ll see I tried to include some seasonal options too.
For the full bundle, check out the thumbnail below. The bundle includes a copy of fourteen partner plays. You can try the one below for free with your email subscription. I’ve done 14 in all, and the bundle is priced at $20.00 ($1.25 each).
Poetry Reading for Partners
Another option I love for partners are poetry notebooks (I blogged about them on Classroom Tested Resources not long ago [here]). In that post, I explained how we work with the poems I’ve created throughout the week and how we build our poetry notebooks as the year unfolds.
For students in second grade, introducing a new poem each week (as a minimum) provides them with a great variety to read and reread. With each poem, students develop rhythm and phrasing, improve automaticity of sightword reading, practice decoding, and even comprehension. My Poem of the Week Yearly Bundle has enough poems to use each week as well as materials to work with them. Pairing students and having them alternate lines, work together on the activities that go with the poems, and reread old favorites are just a few options your students can do with them. This freebie is one you can enjoy any time of year and would give you a preview of this set. In addition to the yearly bundle, I’ve also created two other sets. The Poetry on the Menu set includes all food themed poems, and the Poetry for Sports Fans includes a poem for each sport.