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Benefits of Peer Teaching: Ideas for Your Classroom

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As teachers, we need to incorporate all sorts of strategies to help our students be successful. Peer teaching is one strategy that builds not only content knowledge, but also student confidence.

Peer Teaching: The Basics

For those of you who have yet to experience peer teaching, it is a simple enough model to understand. One student with advanced knowledge of a particular topic, designated as the ''tutor,'' provides instruction and guidance to a fellow student, known as the ''learner'', who is less familiar with the subject in question. Peer teaching was first introduced by educator Andrew Bell in 1795 and has been a popular choice for mixed-ability classrooms ever since.

group work

Like just about any other classroom instructional strategy, peer teaching offers plenty of benefits and poses a handful of potential issues. A study conducted on the topic revealed that students who participated in a peer-teaching model experienced significant improvements in a number of academic and social skill areas. In some cases, however, the model may not be as effective due to a lack of quality instruction from tutors or an inability for students to communicate their knowledge to a classmate.

Whether or not such a model ends up being successful is usually determined by the teacher's ability to smoothly integrate and transition into the strategy. The following activities and games include some creative and innovative ideas for your classroom that may prove extremely useful as you introduce your students to this learning strategy.

Discussion & Technology Activities

Think-Pair-Share

This activity begins with you issuing a particular prompt or question for your students to consider. Your question or prompt should be challenging enough to provoke intensive reflection and open enough to allow for multiple interpretations. Analyzing a character's motivations in a story or an artist's choices in a painting are just two examples of tasks you can assign to your students.

After giving students time to ponder the prompt or question independently, have them form pairs and discuss their ideas with a partner. Next, you can open the discussion to the entire classroom and have each pair share their conclusions.

partners

Think-pair-share is an effective means of improving student engagement. It encourages students to come up with their own ideas and then improve upon them through discussions with their classmates. It not only has the familiar feel of a classroom discussion that your students are used to, but also forces them out of their comfort zone and encourages them to take their own initiative during the partner phase of the discussion.

You can also use this activity to confirm that your tutor-learner pairings are working as planned. Pay attention to each pair's response. If any one group seems quiet or confused, you may want to keep a closer eye on them during the next assignment to determine if changes need to be made.

Internet Tour Guide

Technology is increasingly becoming a crucial part of the modern classroom. This is particularly advantageous for younger students, most of whom do not know a world without smartphones, laptops, and constant Wi-Fi access.

In this activity, you and your more tech-savvy students can design an ''internet tour'' that covers all the essential capabilities of the online world: search engines, research sites, and the like. Through this lesson, students will learn just how useful the Internet can be in their studies and how they can best take advantage of such a tool.

technology

This is an excellent introductory activity for students who are new to peer teaching. Rather than attempting to teach a history or mathematics lesson on their first try, students can focus on a topic that is both familiar and comfortable for them.

Writing Activities

If you sense your students are losing focus, or if you merely want to reward them for a hard day's work, peer teaching provides plenty of opportunities for entertaining and educational writing activities.

Scrambled Sentences

Have your tutors come up with short and simple sentences and instruct them to write all the words out in an incorrect order. For example, ''the fox jumps over the fence'' becomes ''over fox the jumps fence''. Learners will then be tasked with rearranging these words into the correct order. Encourage your tutors to think up quirky sentences for an additional burst of fun.

Fictional Pen Pals

In this activity, both the tutor and learner assume new identities and write letters to one another. You can assign the roles yourself, or allow your tutor to pick out the new identities. For an added twist, assign personalities who have a strange profession or hail from an exotic locale, such as a French baker or Russian hunter.

New Endings

Begin this game by introducing your students to a familiar fairy tale or story. Have them read the first half of the story on a handout, which does not include the ending. Depending on the age of your students, you can either have them draw or write their own ending to the story. Have your students work in tutor-learner pairs, or ask your tutors to provide guidance while your learners complete the task.

peer teaching

Peer Teaching: Give it a Try!

When properly utilized, peer teaching is an effective model that is sure to have a positive impact on your classroom, both in terms of academic performance and student camaraderie. By using the ideas mentioned above - and introducing some of your own - both you and your students are sure to have a productive and enjoyable experience while using this teaching approach!

By Bill Sands
May 2017
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