Rotate elbow partners so students get the opportunity to work with many classmates, which helps create community and trust in the classroom.

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Goal:
  • Students experience communicating with a lot of their peers to develop a classroom community that promotes problem solving and trust.
Reason:
  • The ECS curriculum often starts a lesson with journaling and then sharing out with elbow partners. This can get old since students regularly sit next to the same people.
    • Also, if students are only told to talk to their elbow partners, they only build relationships with one or two students. This is no way to build a community.
  • Students need constant re-energizing! Moving them around the room to share ideas is a great way to keep energy up.
  • Teachers need to shake up groupings of students on a regular basis because every teaching technique and strategy loses its value over time.
Action:
  • Use sliding groups for a variety of loose discussion formats.
    • This strategy involves "sliding" the structure of the classroom up and down levels of interaction from 1) individuals reflecting on a topic, 2) to pairs sharing their reflections, 3) to four-person groups synthesizing their concerns, 4) to general class discussion,and then back down the chain whenever one format stops eliciting productive discussion.
    • Keep your eyes open for students who don’t naturally get into groups.
      • Make it clear that it’s impossible to be successful if you’re always working alone. These students may just need extra help getting into the collaboration spirit.
      • Problem solving is a key component in computer science and these students need to let down their guard and engage with others.
  • Examples for making groups instead of elbow partners:
    • Color Cards: Give students different colored 3X5 index cards by handing them out or leaving them on desks or seats. All students with the same color card become a group. This strategy is an easy way to form random groups quickly.
      • Add on: Put different attributes (shape, number, letter and picture) on each colored card. This gives you many options for setting up groups (e.g., a group of four with the same picture, a group of five with all different shapes, a group with the same number or a group with all different numbers).
    • Clock appointments: Students draw a clock on a paper (example 1, example 2) and make spaces next to the face numbers to make “appointments” with other students. To fill the appointments, students walk around the room and write each others names into the appointment slots, usually next to 3, 6, 9 and 12 but you could use all 12 spaces. Example: If I’m partnering with you at 12, I write my name on your page at 12, and you write your name on my page at 12.
      • Throughout the lesson, week or month, as you want students to partner up, you announce that they need to find their “3 o’clock partner.”
      • This keeps feelings from being hurt, time being wasted, and allows you to quickly change up who students are working with.
    • Change up the seating chart in the room on a regular basis so students work and program with their constantly changing neighbors.
      • This allows you to continue using the elbow partner technique because students pairs will change frequently.
    • For more ideas, check out other pair programming CS Teachings Tips.
    Additional Resources for Pairing up Students