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Clock Partners Instructional Strategy

"clock partners engagement strategy" text with clock partners printable on yellow paper

Have you heard of clock partners?  It’s a great instructional strategy to partner your students up quickly. It’s easy to implement and is a great engagement strategy. When I originally saw it, it was with students walking around and finding partners for all 12 of their spaces. But, I wondered if there was a way to make it more meaningful. With some intentionality, and a quick note to yourself, you can use clock partners as a great way to differentiate and flexibly group your students.

How Clock Partners Work

Print out enough copies for each student to have their own.  Students take their page, walk around the room and find 12 different partners.  They each write their partner’s name on the same line.  If I’m partnering with you at 12, I write my name on your page at 12, and you write your name on my page at 12.  You can help control this by only allowing them to get 1 partner at a time and resetting things before students start moving again. This helps keep things too chaotic or students getting messed up. I wouldn’t recommend using dry erase for this because it’d be easy to accidentally erase. Instead, either laminate at the end, or give students a safe place to store their clocks.

Throughout the year, as you want students to partner up, you announce that they need to find their partner for a specific time: “4 o’clock partner” for example. This helps to ensure that students are working with a variety of peers throughout the day and week. If you have a smaller class you can allow students to list the same friend more than once, but I’d recommend limiting it to no more than two.

clock partner printable on clipboard with green and purple background


Clock partners is easy to tweak in a few different ways. I give students some of their matches.  For example, I might make the 3 o’clock partner a student who reads at the same or similar level. Then, I might make the 9 o’clock partner a student who reads at a higher or lower level.  Then, when I want students to partner up to work, I can quickly partner them up with someone of similar or varying abilities. I recommend writing these partnerships on the clocks before you distribute them and keeping a master list for yourself.  You could also direct students to leave specific times blank, but then you always run the risk of them miswriting a different match.

You can even use clock partners to make a quick group. For example, you could make the 3 and 4 similar levels.  If you use those same three students as 3 and 4 for each other, you can ask them to meet with both partners and you’ve made a small group of 3.  Of course, you can do the same thing with groups of 4 as well.

Here’s a sample way I’ve arranged the partners. There are so many different ways to do something similar by increasing the frequency of a specific grouping.

12- similar math ability
1- similar reading ability
2- similar reading ability
3- similar reading ability
4- free choice
5- free choice
6- different math ability
7- free choice
8- different reading ability
9- different reading ability
10- free choice
11- free choice

Students should still have some choices in who their partners are. I would always ensure students have at least 3 different free choice partners, giving them time to work with peers of their choosing. You might be surprised by the relationships students form with each other, and with whom they choose to work.

I would recommend starting out the first day of school by having students find at least one partner. This is a great way for them to get to meet each other, learn each other’s names, and get the structure and procedures established. After you do your beginning of the year assessments, you can match students based on abilities and allow them to fill in the extra slots with their choice of partners. Or, you could create an entirely new clock partners list, if you chose to match all 12 times initially. I’d change things up at least one more time during the year to ensure students are building relationships with a variety of peers. After mid-year diagnostic testing is a great time to set up new partnerships based on new testing information, and because it’s typically a mid-point in the year.

I have Clock Partners templates in a few different colors and styles, including a black and white version. You can download them here. Looking for other engagement resources? Check out my Interactive Multiple Choice and 4 Corners- A Kinesthetic Preassessment posts."Clock partners templates" text with clock partners printable placed on colored paper with school supplies on side



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