What types of activities can the teachers at Washington Elementary use to increase their students’ reading skills?
Page 5: Pair Students
The teachers at Washington Elementary have learned that PALS systematically pairs students so that each dyad consists of one higher-performing reader and one lower-performing reader. For both kindergarten and first grade, the teacher ranks his or her students based on reading performance. Because students in early grades have limited reading skills, many researchers and teachers use the Rapid Letter Naming (RLN) test, a measure of letter recognition and a fairly reliable measure of future reading performance. However, the method of pairing students for each of these two grade levels is somewhat different. See the examples below to learn more about each.
The teacher pairs the highest-performing student with the lowest-performing one. The teacher then pairs the next highest-performing student with the next lowest-performing student, and so on until all students have been paired. Click here for an illustration of how Mrs. Doris uses this method to pair her kindergarten students.
The teacher divides the rank-ordered list in half and pairs the top high-performing student with the top low-performing one (and this might include pairing a student with a disability [e.g., learning disability in reading, intellectual disability] with one without a disability). The process continues until all of the students have been paired. Click here to see an illustration of how Ms. Chandler uses this method to pair her first-grade students.
Students remain with the same partner for approximately four weeks. After that time, each of them is paired with another student based on performance as well as a number of other pertinent considerations, such as the students’ social skills and their individual learning needs. Of course, student pairs may be changed at any time if a pairing proves unsuccessful. The table below outlines several reasons that student pairs might need to be altered, either temporarily or permanently.
|Student academic needs
|The discrepancy in the students’ abilities is too large to accommodate learning.
|The student pair has difficulty following instructions and the PALS rules, creating a disruptive environment.
|The stronger reader does not work well with the struggling one, showing disrespect or offering inappropriate feedback.
|One student is absent for the day. Click here to learn about ways to adjust pairs when students are absent.
Devin Kearns discusses considerations when pairing kindergarten students (time: 0:29).
Devin Kearns, MA
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 an instance, teachers may need to create a group of three students (a triad). When such a grouping becomes necessary, teachers might wish to keep the following considerations in mind:
- Each student can serve as the Coach for one of the three activities and the Reader for the remaining two.
- 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- or average-performing students in triads than it is to assign struggling readers to these groups because students in triads have fewer opportunities to practice their reading.