Increasing Student Participation During Classroom Discussions

So, you may be asking - "What in the heck does a PB&J sandwich have to do with student participation?" As I write this, I can only imagine the questions that may be running through your head... partially because they're running through my head even though I chose the image!

Are we feeding the kids?
Isn't peanut butter banned in lots of schools?
Did you just pick a random picture?

Truly, there is a reason I picked this image! You see - an excellent strategy to help increase student participation during classroom discussions is Turn & Talk or, as my students call it, Peanut Butter and Jelly Partners.

What are Peanut Butter & Jelly Partners?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Partners are just another name for Turn & Talk partners or Elbow partners. You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to. One in the same. So, why this crazy name for them? Because the kids think it's hilarious! What is more fun - having your teacher say, "Now, turn and talk to your elbow partner" or "Peanut butter, talk to Jelly?"

Why call it something different?

Aside from the name just being fun for the kids, there are some other fun benefits to using the terms Peanut Butter and Jelly partners.


The Turn & Talk strategy are beneficial in classroom discussions. It allows students to process and work through their answer before sharing out with the class. For students who are below-level or shy, it gives them the opportunity to hear an answer from a friend before being called on. Labeling students as peanut butter or jelly allows you to differentiate your classroom discussions. Depending on the question you are asking, you can ask peanut butter or jelly to talk first. This may allow your more advanced partners to provide scaffolding to your on-level and below-level students before you discuss the question as a class. 

Various Groupings

Having special names for your partners not only allows you to differentiate, it also allows you an easy way to give students multiple partners. Rather than only having an elbow buddy, you can have a Peanut Butter & Jelly partner and a Mashed Potatoes & Gravy partner or a Cookies & Milk partner. The kids are great at remembering which partner they are because it's so fun and silly. Of course, you can still provide visual reminders for students if needed, but many times they are not needed.

Other Ways to Group Students

My students are very intentionally partnered based on ability, as well as personality. I try to match above with below level learners and Chatty Cathys with Quiet Quints. It takes a lot of thought. However, you can also match your students based on where they sit, by letting them select their own partner, or randomly. You can even do a combination by selecting different names for different types of partners.

Oh no! I have an ODD number of students!

That's what I said when I started this. For some reason, it didn't really hit me that this was a problem until I was assigning the students their partners. Luckily, teachers are good at thinking on their feet! See that picture up at the top? Notice the chips? Yep, that's partner number three!

When I told my oddball student that, he was so excited that he got to be the chips, a super special position just for him. He was, however, confused when it was his turn. You see, every time I asked a question, I always said that peanut butter or jelly went first.

What about the chips?

Once again, I was able to quickly swoop in with a solution. Little known fact - I like to crush up chips and put them in the middle of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Does anyone else do that? It's a textural thing for me. Really, that doesn't matter, though. The point is, it gave me a perfect solution for our little dilemma. "The chips always go in the middle," I told him as I explained how I liked to eat my sandwiches. And that was that, no further explanation needed and no complaints! Well, except when I forgot to say "Turn and tell peanut butter - and chips - what you think!"

Ready to try it out on your class?

Go for it! It is amazing how much fun discussions become for the students using this system, and it makes it easy to organize your Turn & Talk times. Check out this Peanut Butter and Jelly Partner resource to help implement it in your room!

Organize your Turn & Talk times with Peanut Butter and Jelly Partners! This method makes it exciting to share with peers and helps teachers organize Turn & Talk times making them even more effective and productive. Click for more information on how to implement in your classroom!

No comments:

Post a Comment