In my Algebra 1 classes, I have been struggling all year long with motivation. I have some students that just refuse to do anything. It has been very frustrating, and can be very discouraging. As a first-year teacher, this is something that I hope to improve on A LOT over the next couple of years. I have some ideas on how to improve on this from the very start next year, but that will have to wait until August!

One thing that I have found is that my students LOVE to work in groups or with partners. This almost always gets (almost) all of my students actually working and trying. I love group/partner work, too! It gives students a chance to talk about what we are doing, give each other feedback, find mistakes, and so much more! It also keeps most students engaged so that I have the time to walk around and give 1-on-1 attention to the students that need it. I love it!

One of the biggest downsides of partner/group work, though, is that sometimes the students tend to get off-topic. I would give warnings, and I started telling students that each group would get 1 reminder/warning to get back on topic, and after that warning, if they needed another reminder, then the students would have to go back to their own seats and work individually.

This worked for the most part, but I couldn’t always keep track of what exactly counted as a ‘warning’ or which groups I had already given a warning to… then I came up with the idea for Partner Cards!

I printed these cards out on colored card stock. Each pair or group gets 2 cards – one green and one red. If I give a group their first warning, I take the green card. If I have to give them a second reminder, I take the red card and the students have to go back to their seats and work individually.

The cards MUST be on the table and visible to me while the students are working. If I can’t see the cards, then the students shouldn’t even be sitting together – they should be back in their own seat working individually. This helps to keep the students from hiding the cards so that I can’t take them.

This actually works! I hear the students start to get off-topic, and I will hear one say, “Stop! She’s gonna take our card!” I love it! It has helped my students to hold each other accountable, keep themselves on the task at hand, and makes it more concrete and visible when the group gets a warning!

It was very easy to make, but if you want to download the partner cards that I made click here!

Let me know what you think, if you have any ideas that might help, or if this helps you in your own classroom!

-Emily