To Pair or not to Pair: Part Six: Pair-work Alone or with the Curriculum

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Finally, some general, concluding thoughts on how to fit pair-work into your class.

Pair-work as a stand-alone activity

Pair-work is an excellent activity within a structure of class where students spend time in formal “grammar” classes, then spend another period of time in so-called “listening / speaking” classes. If your school or academy divides these two activities into a regemin and you’ve been chosen to do the latter, you can use pair-work exclusively to support the material learned in the other class.

Coordinate with the teacher who is giving the book lessons. Make sure you know what structures, vocabulary, situations are being covered and learned. Support this book work by then choosing the material you will plug into the basic pair-work lesson structure that practices that material.

Even if you are not working with another teacher, pair-work is an excellent way to make longer, intensive class periods more interesting for your students. If you have on hand two hours instead of just one, then you can spend more time on presenting the scenes, as well as more time on student practice and teacher observation and evaluatiion.

Pair-work as a rewarding culmination of curriculum study

If you are in a more structured situation, let’s say language class one hour twice a week, you’ll find that pair-work seems too much trouble when pages in the book must be turned, exercises done and exams prepared for. Pair-work requires a special dedication of time in the classroom that will necessarily take away from the general coursework requirements.

On the other hand, you can actually use pair-work to stimulate your students to get through that curriculum. If you let your students know that at the end of each chapter, or term or semester they will be breaking out of the regular doldroms of book work by doing the pair-work activity, you will be giving them something to look forward to.

You can mete out the general instructions for the pair-work activity during the first weeks of class. Once you’ve finished a particular goal in the regular classwork, you can have an activity day that involves preparing the character ID cards, or the blindfold prop game. You can even teach them some of the little exercises they will be using for warmups during the pair-work activity. When the book work has been done and you have a couple of days to concentrate on pair-work, your students will know what to expect. It will become a reward for work-well-done during the first part of the term.

The most important aspects of pair-work to keep in mind will then be:

  • Keeping structured
  • Being prepared
  • Letting students make noise
  • Observing and evaluating
  • Showing group approval through applause

Have fun with pair-work. It will be rewarding to both you and your students.

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