2 Using pair work in the classroom

Now read Case Study 2.

Case Study 2: Talking in pairs

Mrs Roshni wanted to explore what her class knew about respiration and decided to start with exploring their ideas about breathing in and out. She explains what she did and why.

I really like science and want my class to enjoy it too. Ever since I trained as a teacher and had a science tutor who made it such fun, I have wanted to do the same for my students. It is not always easy because the school I teach in is rural and does not have a lot of equipment and resources for science. But my tutor said that there were enough resources around to make science exciting. He also said that students need to be able to talk about science and do practical tasks. I decided to start by getting my Class VI to work in pairs so that everyone had the chance to do the activities and to talk about their experiences.

We had been looking at the characteristics of living things as that was the next topic in their textbooks, but I did not want to just read the chapter with the students. I heard my tutor saying in my head that they need to investigate things and I wanted to know what they knew about respiration, so I started with breathing.

I asked them to first work on their own, placing their hands on their ribs and breathing in slowly and out again. As they breathed in and out, I asked them to think about what they could feel happening to their rib cage and their mouth and nose, and why this might be. Next, I asked them to do the same with their neighbour, putting their hands on their partner’s rib cage as their partner breathed in and out. This caused lots of discussion, laughter and interest as they tried it several times each.

While they were working I walked around and listened carefully to the conversations. I gave them time to share ideas about what they thought was happening before I asked some pairs for comments. I chose pairs who I knew had some interesting ideas.

Their responses included:

  • the chest moves out
  • the ribs appear to move up
  • the ribs spread out
  • you can feel air going in your nose and mouth
  • your chest gets bigger
  • you suck air in.

Then they discussed in pairs why this happened, and I asked some other pairs for their thoughts. It was clear that most pairs were able to say that it was to let more air in, but they could not explain why the expansion of the chest helped air to enter.

The idea that the air pressure is reduced by expanding the capacity of the chest and lungs, which causes the air to rush in and balance the forces, was not something that any of my students grasped. So I spent the rest of the lesson showing them how this worked and exploring air pressure and balancing forces.

The next step will be to explore breathing further, looking at how other animals breathe to add real examples. This will link with the textbook and help them to remember and understand better.

Video: Talk for learning

Pause for thought

Mrs Roshni used active pair work to give her students the opportunity to link experience and their ideas of breathing and respiration. Do you undertake such simple activities regularly with your class? If not, how could you do this?

Activity 2: Using pair work in class

Now teach your planned lesson using pair work, enabling your students to talk about how we breathe, what happens to food as we swallow, how we excrete waste or any other topic you are teaching in science.

Think about what you will do while they are talking, and about how you will:

  • introduce your class to pair work
  • organise the students
  • tell them what they are they going to talk about
  • decide how long they will talk for
  • find out about their learning.

It is important to give your students advice about how to listen and respect each other’s ideas so that together they can build up an understanding that they both agree with. Gather together any resources you need and then teach your lesson.

Pause for thought

How did the lesson go? Were the students interested? How do you know this? What did they do or not do? Did you find out more about what they know about breathing or digestion, or your chosen topic from working in pairs? How could you improve the use of pair work next time?

1 Planning to use pair work

3 Advantages of pair work