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One of the most important things someone learns when they take the CELTA course is the role of partnering activities. Just to highlight how these are integrated into the class I want to make two lists. The first list is the obvious one, and the second list is the less obvious ones.
Obvious ways to use partnering:
- When doing a role play
- When practicing a speaking exercise from the book with two people’s dialogue
- Group project or research work
Less obvious ways to use or set up partnering:
- Sharing your answers
- Answering the questions together
- Making sure (if you have a mixed language class) no two people are next to each other who speak the same language
- Playing a kind of musical chairs to move the combinations of partnerships around
The reason why I want to highlight partnering is because so often in a class there can be too much teacher talk and individual work done, but the work that goes on between two people in the class when working on something together (even if it is only a simple grammar exercise), can be more powerful than you think. Why? Because:
- Though they often speak in their own language to the other person, they are trying to understand the grammar point in English
- Though they are speaking their own language to the other person, they may be helping the other understand something they couldn’t quite get.
- If they are not speaking their own language, it’s a win every which way you look at it
- There are often a lot of questions when learning takes place, questions on clarity, examples, other related rules and so on, and the teacher doesn’t always have the chance to get to everyone, so if there is someone next to them who can help you understand, all the better
The most important thing too that we forget, is of course the confidence someone gets when they are partnering. Obviously in a role play, the stronger partner will make the weaker partner look very good, and the same goes for the book work. If a partner is stronger, they appear as a good role model for the weaker partner.
Also another good point about partnering is that the student somehow thinks that answering exercises in a partnership is easier, particularly if you have a stronger partner with you, but the truth is, the weaker partner may well learn more from their partner than even their teacher. (The teacher just has to also make sure that they partnerships are working – no point in having a partner who is just copying the answers from the other partners book, that’s not partnering.
From the teachers side I believe the most important role of the teacher when partnering is taking place in the class is to make sure that:
- the interactions are happening,
- the interactions are going the way the teacher set up the instructions,
- and that of course, the outcomes from the partnerships are correct.
The beauty of partnering in class activities generally is how much conversation goes down between students on the English task.
What do you think? Do you have any other innovative ways to incorporate partnering in your class?