Pair work


Why do teachers use pair work?

Asking children to work in pairs has many advantages:

·         It’s good for the children to speak to each other in English. This maximizes their talking time and minimizes the teacher’s talking. The main aim is that the children can practice the language.

·         It’s good for the children to work with another child rather than alone. They can brainstorm more ideas and help each other. In fact, they focus more and the stronger child can help the weaker.

·         It’s good for the children to know that language is not an interaction between them and the teacher, it is between them and others: natives or non natives. The way they work together in pairs helps them not only to learn the language but to build up their rapport and independence.

·         It allows you to step back and monitor the performance of individual children.

·         It also allows children to personalize the lesson, by sharing their own experiences and opinions.

·         Some children are shy and will never participate in whole class discussions. In pairs, children can feel safer and are more likely to take risks and experiment with the language.

·         Introducing a pair work activity can give the lesson a change of pace.


How to pair or group kids together

There are different ways of pairing or grouping children together. You can decide who you want to group together, and tell the individual children their partners. Or you can gesture with your hands to each child to work with the child next to them.

You can also group children randomly. This is a nice way to do it because the children work with different partners each time. Here are three ways of doing it:



·         Ask children to line up in order of birthdays, height, etc. and then divide them up.

·         Give each child a card with a word on it. Children find their partners by connection the words (e.g. black and white).

·         Give each child a number. Children sit with someone who has the same number. For example, you have a group of 30 children and you want groups of 3. Go round the class giving each child a number 1 to 10. Then ask them to get into groups with children who have the same number. You should end up with 10 groups of 3 children.

Tip: You can do the same activity with letters of the alphabet or even vocabulary groups. This is a nice warm-up for the start of the class.

Six Problems with pairs and groups, and how to overcome them:





1. My children make too much noise when they all speak at the same time!

Actually this is not a problem, as long as they are speaking English! It shows that they are involved in the activity. You might be concerned that your school Principle wouldn’t like to hear all this noise coming from your classroom. So why not invite him or her, and other teachers, to come and watch the activity.


2. Some of my children won’t use English!


To make sure they use English, tell them they will have to make a short oral report to the rest of the class when they finish. If they know they will have to report the results of the task to the other children, they will be encouraged to use English to complete the task.


3. I can’t control all the children while they are working in pairs!


Make sure you give clear instructions (you can demonstrate the activity with a child in front of the whole class) and a time limit. With pair and group work you also have to be prepared to let go a little, to stand back and let the children get on with it. This might seem strange if you normally control the class at the front of the room.



4. All the children finish at different times!

Make sure you stick to your time limit. It’s fine if some students don’t finish the task (and it might encourage them to be quicker the next time!). If you have 2 or more pairs who finish very early, you could change the partners and ask them to repeat the task with their new partner.

5. Some children are dominant and don’t let their partner speak!

If you have a real mixed ability group, you should decide who works together and not group them randomly. Try to put children together who have roughly the same language ability.

6. They make lots of mistakes and I can’t correct them all!

This is not a problem if the aim of the activity is to develop fluency. Children will not communicate freely if they know they are going to be corrected every time they make a mistake. If they make a lot of mistakes with the language you are presenting in the lesson, you can note down their mistakes while you monitor and then make an exercise using these mistakes to wrap up the lesson.



brainstorm (v.)

يستشير عدداً من الناس لأفكار أكثر

interaction (n.)


native (n.)

شخص لغته الأصلية كذا

non native (n.)

شخص ليست لغته الأصلية كذا

rapport (n.)

استعداد لبناء علاقات طيبة

monitor (v.)


personalize (n.)

يجعل شيئاً شخصياً

take the risk


experiment (v.)


change of pace

تغيير في السرعة

gesture (v.)


randomly (adv.)


involved in (adj)

منغمس في

let go

يترك الزمام

stick to (ph.v)

يلتزم بـ

mixed ability

متنوع القدرات

roughly (adv.)


fluency (n.)


wrap up (ph.v)

ينهي شيئاً بنجاح