In an earlier post I described how my college, Susi, and I introduced a plan to help our students work more effectively in partnerships. The idea was that one is the pilot and the other is the co-pilot. The pilot is in charge of whatever the task is and the co-pilot is there to verbally help or guide. The roles are then reversed to allow each child to be a pilot and co-pilot.
The project was originally designed to help the students when working with technology tools. I have used the Pilot/Co-Pilot model in all curriculum areas with my very active, energetic kindergarten students and it works like magic. They are taking turns without conflict, they are using words to help each other instead of taking over, they are learning from each, they are doing it with little or no teacher direction, and best of all they can verbalize what they are doing to others.
Here are some examples of the model in action:
These are reading partners. The pilot's job is to choose the book and read & talk about the book with the co-pilot. The co-pilot's job is to listen, ask questions, and remind the pilot what good readers do to become better readers.
These students are writing partners working together during our How-To writing unit. In this partnership the pilot is sharing his how to book by reading the steps to the co-pilot. The co-pilot is following the oral instructions and illustrations to draw a jet.
Here, math partners a playing a game called Fill the Hexagons. The pilot rolled a die and is deciding where to place a pattern block on the playing board. The co-pilot is waiting for the pilot to finish her turn and say "You're the pilot." before he rolls the dice and takes his turn.
I highly recommend trying this Pilot/Co-Pilot model with all ages of students to help them become more effective, cooperative, and helpful partnerships no matter what the topic or medium. I think you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!