Play Partners

Partner Skills

UDL 5.3

Rather than working or playing independently, students can engage in any center work or play with a partner. Partnering gives students the opportunity to both model play and work behaviors for their peers and observe the behaviors of a peer. Social skills like taking turns and waiting for a turn can be practiced and reinforced during partner time, as can problem-solving and communication skills (e.g., How to disagree with a peer, how to ask a peer for help). The youngest students benefit greatly from watching their peers perform fine and gross motor skills.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Collaboration Tool

Name Tags for Play Partners

Use this set of name tags when students first pair together for social and academic play activities. This resource contains a set of 8 name tags and provides enough space for young learners to write their own names. Or write the name of each student’s play partner on an ID card and give to students when assigning play partners. For long term play partners, have students keep the card for future reference.

Grade K, 1, 2 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Collaboration Tool

Expectations for Play Partners

A set of 6 common behavioral expectations when students are engaged in play. Use these expectations to create a classroom anchor chart or give each student a copy and review them with their partner.

Grade K, 1, 2 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Collaboration Tool

Introduction Interview for Play Partners

A set of introductory interview questions to help establish successful Play Partners in school settings. Resource includes a “Get to Know My Play Partner” interview sheet as well as a version with pictures and answer choices for students who may need more support.

Grade 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Collaboration Tool

Sentence Frames for Play Partners

A set of sentence frames for students to use when engaged in play. Sentence frames address when students disagree, need help, or want to share their feelings. Use these sentence frames to create a classroom anchor chart or give a copy to each student to review with their partners before playing.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Speaking, Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Non-Preferred Activities
Try supporting a student with a play-partner if the student is resistant to trying a new material (e.g. clay) for the first time. For example, if a student repeatedly ignores the clay center, try pairing the student with a preferred classmate.
Implementation Examples
Use partners in the beginning of the school year to help support the students as they learn their classmates' names. [[ | Check out this blog for some ideas on implementation. ]]
Pairing Partners
Non-verbal or talk-resistant students can be paired with a play partner to help support the development of verbal skills. The practice gives opportunities for the student to hear appropriate speech and language, as well as opportunity for the more gregarious student to practice modeling and mentoring strategies.


Pre-K Play Time
Students can be assigned to build train tracks in a pair. One student is given the job of planning where the track will go, while the other lays the tracks according to the other's instructions. After 2 minutes, the partners can switch roles.
Students can be assigned to a fine-motor center (e.g. lacing cards) in partnerships, with or without assigned roles (e.g. "watcher" and "doer"). If using assigned roles, the students can work for a few minutes, and then change roles. Partnerships can be used in any new applied-skill center which demands repeated practice from the students, responding to the natural tendency of the students to ask "Show me again how you__________?".
Peer Modeling
When a student is being explicitly taught how to use a new tool in the classroom (e.g. a Visual-Task Schedule or Break Card), pairing the student with one who can model its use can increase the tool's success with the student.

Related Strategies