An easy way for choosing partners in the classroom

There are lots of times throughout each school day when you’d like students to choose a partner for any given reason – a quick discussion, a project, or sometimes, simply who to sit with during the work cycle. While often we have children pick someone on the fly, sometimes it’s nice to have a pre-determined partner for each student. One strategy that my Upper Elementary co-teachers and I have used successfully for choosing partners in the classroom is called “clock partners.”

The idea is simple – each child has a clock face printed on a piece of paper. For each hour, students have a different child’s name, who will be their partner when that “hour” is called. So for example, when you need students paired up for a science experiment, simply ask, “Please find your 7:00 partner.” They check their clock partner sheets (unless they have their partners memorized) and find their partners. When a specific hour is called, there is no need for negotiating or decision making – the children find their pre-chosen buddies and can get down to business!

Here’s how we implemented this process:

1. Find an image of a clock face, draw one, or use this example:

Clock partners sheet for choosing partners

Clock partners sheet for choosing partners

2. Make copies for your students.

3. Introduce to the group how clock partners will work and then give time to set up their partners.

We used some guidelines, such as each hour has to have a different person’s name, there has to be a mix of boys and girls as partners, and being a multi-age classroom, the children needed to include a mix of levels as well.

We found it easiest to have them locate one partner at a time, rather than all 12 at once. For example, say “OK, everybody find a 1:00 partner.“ Invite the kids to mill around the room for a minute or two, finding partners for that hour, and recording their partner’s name (in this case, on the line next to 1:00). It is important that both partners write down the other’s name (or have each other sign their own name) for the same hour! Then ask if anyone is still looking for a partner. At that point it is easy to locate anybody still without someone and create pairs. Continue this process until partner groups for all 12 hours are complete.


Here’s an example of a completed sheet:

A completed clock partners sheet

A completed clock partners sheet

4. Suggest a place to store their clock sheets so they remember who their partners are. We had them put them in the front of their binders, so it was easy to see and find. 🙂

5. Try it out! Find an activity to use clock partners either immediately after creating their clocks, or soon after. They were pretty excited about it, so take advantage of that!

That is one way that worked in our room for finding partners. What is a different way you’ve used in your classroom?

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