How can Mrs. Nash implement these activities?
Page 7: Pair Students
Through her research on PALS, Mrs. Nash learns that students are systematically paired so that each dyad consists of one higher-performing reader and one lower-performing one. The teacher ranks his or her students based on their reading achievement level, divides the list in half, and pairs the top high-performing student with the top low-performing student. This process is repeated until all of the students have been paired.
Step 1: Rank students
Mrs. Nash ranks her students based on their reading skills. Although teachers have several options for determining those skills, Mrs. Nash chooses to administer a quick reading assessment with a maximum score of 50.
Step 2: Divide list
|Divide the list of students in half. Draw a line to create two groups of students.|
Step 3: Move halves next to each other
Arrange the two halves side-by-side and pair the higher-performing student in the first column to the corresponding lower-performing student in the second. Continue this process until all of the students have been paired.
For Your Information
Students with certain disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, mild intellectual and developmental disabilities) can be paired successfully with students either with or without disabilities. Such peer pairing has proven beneficial to both students.
Students in grades two through six usually remain in their assigned pairs for three or four weeks, after which time the teacher will need to reassign partners. Reports from instructors indicate that switching partners at regular intervals is among the most effective methods of keeping students enthusiastic about PALS and of improving behavior. Of course, this changing of partners has the added advantage of allowing students to work with a wider variety of their peers.
Teachers should also be aware that, at times, circumstances might necessitate adjustments to their initial pairings. The table below outlines examples of several reasons that student pairings might require modification.
|Student academic needs||A discrepancy in the students’ abilities is too large to accommodate learning.|
|Behavior issues||The student pair has difficulty following instructions and the PALS rules, creating a disruptive environment.|
|Student incompatibility||The stronger reader does not work well with the struggling student, exhibiting disrespect and offering inappropriate feedback.|
|Absenteeism||One student is absent for the day.
Because it is not uncommon for students to be absent, teachers should plan ahead for how student absenteeism will affect their PALS sessions. Below are several recommendations to help ensure that all students can engage in a reading activity even in the event that one or more students are not present.
Devin Kearns offers some pointers for pairing students (time: 0:50).
Devin Kearns, MA
Transcript: Devin Kearns, MA
Pairing is really important and needs to be used flexibly. Because what we found is that if your top high-performing student and your top low-performing student don’t get along well that’s worse than having, you know, a different pair of students. We really encourage teachers to put a lot of effort into making good decisions based on student behavior, because if they don’t they can have some real problems. It is also important to know that it’s okay to keep the same pair together. Sometimes you just have a magical pair, and the kids just work really wonderfully together. It’s definitely a good idea to give students a variety of people to work with, but if you have one pair that is working really well— especially when you have one of those students who’s difficult to pair—it’s a great idea just to let them stay together for the next three to four weeks.
For Your Information
It is often the case that a classroom contains an odd number of students, leaving one student without a partner. In such instances, teachers can create a group of three students (a triad), keeping the following considerations in mind:
- Each student can serve as the Coach for one of the three activities and the Reader for two of the activities.
- One student with average or above reading and social skills can be assigned to a triad but serve as a “floater,” filling in for other students when they are absent.
- It is better to place higher-performing students in triads than to assign struggling readers to these groups, because students in triads have fewer opportunities to practice their reading.
Imagine that you are a third-grade teacher. You are planning to implement PALS and need to pair your students.