How can Mrs. Nash implement these activities?

Page 7: Pair Students

Students readingThrough 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.

Name Reading Score
Micah 48
Emma 46
Chase 42
Katie 39
Zach 37
Avery 37
Carlos 35
Damarcus 34
Diondre 33
Madalyn 33
Ethan 31

arrowStep 2: Divide list

Zoe 30
Kana 30
Noah 29
Shante 28
Aliya 27
Alexis 27
Antoine 23
Hannah 20
Garrison 12
Sherise 8
Garrison 6

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.

Higher
performance level
Micah 48
Emma 46
Chase 42
Katie 39
Zach 37
Avery 37
Carlos 35
Damarcus 34
Diondre 33
Madalyn 33
Ethan 31
arrow

Lower
performance level
Zoe 30
Kana 30
Noah 29
Shante 28
Aliya 27
Alexis 27
Antoine 23
Hannah 20
Garrison 12
Sherise 8
Garrison 6

arrow
Pair 1

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.

Reason Example
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.

  • A higher-performing reader might read independently for the session. (For obvious reasons, this should be done sparingly, if at all possible.)
  • The student might join another pair of students to form a triad. Each student will serve as the Coach for one of the three reading activities.
  • If the partners of two students are absent, those students can be paired for the session. As always, the pairs will read from the lower-performing readers’ book.
  • Although less likely, a student from another classroom who is engaged in PALS and does not have a partner for the day might join the class for the session.

kearnsRED
Devin Kearns, MA
PALS trainer
Vanderbilt University

Devin Kearns offers some pointers for pairing students (time: 0:50).

View Transcript

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.

Activity

teacherImagine that you are a third-grade teacher. You are planning to implement PALS and need to pair your students.

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