The Peer Assisted Learning Strategy in the Classroom

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What is the Peer Assisted Learning Strategy (PALS)?

The Peer Assisted Learning Strategy (PALS) is a class-wide peer-tutoring program that addresses the different learning needs of every student. This cooperative learning technique pairs students together and gives them the roles of a “Coach” and a “Player”.

The PALS Strategy in the Classroom

The first step towards implementing the PALS strategy in the classroom is to obtain a baseline of all the students’ strengths and weaknesses. They are then ranked according to their skills and abilities. This information is used to carefully form student pairs- a student with a higher achievement/skill rating is paired with a student who has a low or average score.The pairing is put into place to encourage students to learn from each other through teaching and practicing.

Following the principle of Reciprocal Teaching, each student takes turns being a Coach and a Player. Coaches are instructed to observe, assist and provide constructive feedback to the Players and are even given guidelines to follow. The pairs are regularly shuffled to give students the opportunity to learn and interact with others.

The PALS technique is typically a 25-35 minute activity, conducted at least 2-4 times a week. It enables students to participate in various activities and allows the teacher to observe, supervise and give individual intervention when needed.

When equipped with peer reviewing techniques, students can rate each other on their effectiveness as a coach. Teachers can determine the effectiveness of the strategy by observing the students’ behavior and learning behaviors such as student motivation and participation.

Different PALS Techniques

The PALS strategy is often used for two main subjects including reading and math.Different implementations of these strategies are available for all age groups. These strategies are to enhance the given curriculum and help develop stronger reading and math skills.

  • Reading with PALS: Focuses on the development of skills such as phonics, decoding, letters, correspondence, reading fluency, comprehension, partner reading, paragraph shrinking, prediction relay and re-telling. No special materials are required for this and teachers can make use of books and stories available to them.

In this program students read in turns and describe the reading to each other. In order to model correct learning, the higher skilled student always reads first. The tasks are as follows:

Task 1: Partner Reading

The Coach reads the passage aloud with the player following along. The roles are switched and then the passage is read again.

Task 2: Paragraph Shrinking

Students are instructed to read aloud and then summarize and state the main ideas from the passage. This encourages them to display their understanding of the passage.

Task 3: Prediction Relay

One partner tries to predict the possible information present in the next half of the text and then reads aloud from the passage to find the information.

  • Math with PALS: Includes a Coaching and Practice phase where Coaching lasts for 10-15 minutes. The Player works on a task while the Coach guides the Player by using a question and answer sheet. Next, during the practice phase, both students work independently on practice questions. They can then exchange papers when they are both done and score each other. This session lasts for 5-10 minutes.

The potential of this program is not limited to improving just these skills. Rather it can be incorporated within different learning activities and applied across other content areas as well.

Like this article for teachers?

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