Partner Your Students With Ease

We all love to provide partner experiences for students, but partner selection can be stressful for some kids (and teachers)! Here's a system you can use to make the process run smoothly. It's an easy way to make sure that your students work with a variety of peers throughout the school year, not just the same few friends over and over again.I’m always looking for creative ways to manage my classroom. I find that things just operate more smoothly when there is a system in place. In this post, I will share an {easy to implement} system for you to partner your students. Use it when you want your students to discuss a topic with a partner, or when it’s time to play a game. Pull it out anytime you want students to work in teams of two, without a lot of fuss!

I have used the “Clock Buddies” system in my classroom for many years. The reason I like this system is because it guarantees that students will work with a variety of their peers, rather than the same few best buddies over and over again. Before I introduce this partner system to my students, I always remind them that in real life they will work with many types of partners. Partners will not always be best friends, and it is good practice to learn how to work with all types of people.

In order to get this system up and running in your classroom, you will need to spend one class period to set it up with your students. Once the initial schedule is in place, partnering up is as simple as turning a dial. All of the materials you need to implement “Clock Buddies” are found as a free download at the end of this post. Here’s how it works!

Every student in your class will need one copy of the “Clock Buddies” scheduling sheet. The larger clock (with color graphics) is a visual that will be displayed in your classroom. You only need one copy of that clock, and you will probably want to laminate it for durability. Cut out the arrow and attach it to the center of the clock with a paper fastener.

To get started, explain to students that they will make “appointments” with their classmates to meet at different hours. Like real appointments, both people need to agree to meet at a specific time. For example, as shown below, Hakeem and Trent have agreed to be “9:00” buddies. Hakeem wrote Trent’s name in his 9:00 time slot and Trent wrote Hakeem’s name on his own paper in the 9:00 time slot. It is very important that both students have recorded each other’s name in the same time slot. I like to role play this exchange with my students before we actually begin scheduling.

Use this "Clock Buddies" system to partner your students during a lesson.

Please note that a “9:00” meeting will not necessarily take place at 9:00 (although it might!). Read on for further clarification.

It usually takes my students about 20 minutes to schedule 12 “appointments” with their classmates. Sometimes at the very end of the session, there may be a few students who can’t find a classmate with availability at a particular time. It is usually necessary to come back together as a large group at the end, so I can help orchestrate the last few time slots. In some cases, I may have to help form a few meeting times that will include 3 students. We work together to make sure that every student in the class has an “appointment” for every time slot. This may even require repeat buddies for some time slots. Just be flexible and make it work. 🙂

Use this "Clock Buddies" system to partner your students during a lesson.

Once the appointments are made, I give each of my students a clear plastic sleeve to protect their schedule. We clip that schedule in their binder. Some lamination would also do the trick. I just like to keep the schedules protected, in a safe location, where they can be readily found.

Use this "Clock Buddies" system to partner your students during a lesson.

Now for the easy part! Display the clock in your classroom. When it is time to partner your students, turn the dial to any number on the clock. This number does not have to correspond to the actual time. For example, announce, “For this activity, you will work with your 9:00 buddy.” Students quickly check their schedules and find the classmate they were scheduled to meet with at 9:00.

You might choose to start at 12:00 and rotate around the clock in order each time you use partners, or you may prefer to mix it up and use random numbers. Just try to use every number at some point, so students will have the opportunity to work with a variety of peers.

Use this "Clock Buddies" system to partner your students during a lesson.

To download your own FREE copy of my “Clock Buddies” resource, just click here! Enjoy!

Use this "Clock Buddies" system to partner your students during a lesson.



  1. Judi
    January 15, 2019 / 7:47 pm

    Your tips and strategies are so practical, useful. Thank you judi

    • undercoverclassroom
      January 18, 2019 / 1:56 pm

      Hi Judi! Thanks so much! Glad that you are able to use them. 🙂

  2. Darren
    May 31, 2019 / 4:19 pm

    This is a great idea. I am a recent college graduate and I’ll start my first year of teaching as a third grade teacher. How will this work with a class size of 25 students?

    • undercoverclassroom
      June 2, 2019 / 8:06 pm

      Hi Darren, Congratulations on your graduation! I have used this partnering technique with groups of that size. If I have an odd number of students, I let everyone create their schedule, and in the end, there will be some students left over with empty time slots. I then help those students schedule meetings in groups of 3. In that case, one student will write two names in one time slot. 🙂

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