Idea 233: ‘Improving Pairs’ and ‘Learning Lines’


A useful activity requiring no resources and little time that you can throw into any lesson to have children think about their learning and progress. The kind of activity that, if you have your children trained in advance, will look great if chucked into an observation or were Ofsted to step into your classroom!

Have the children in your class mix around and pair up with another pupil at random. They now have one minute to talk with their classmate and see if they can agree who has improved most in this lesson out of the pair and WHY. Make it clear that improving can mean they have learned something completely new OR that they have gotten better at something. Give them some sentence starters to use like “I think I have improved the most because…..” “In this lesson I’ve learned … and I didn’t know that before”.

After the children have had a chat you can choose a pair at random and have them tell the class their reasoning for their decision. You can also address if a child didn’t learn as much as they might have hoped and ask them to think about what they could do differently next lesson to help them improve. If you are doing this as a mini-plenary you could ask the child who thinks they have improved less what they could do with their remaining time to improve more. Keep things open and non-judgemental and make it clear you are genuinely trying to help them better themselves.

TIP: For extra accountability, I often have children decide in pairs who learned the most and why, THEN they mix again and have to explain their decision to a new partner. The new partner listens and then takes their turn to explain their decision. While this conversation is happening I can go round and listen in on a few pairs. After, I might ask a few children to share with the class why they think they’ve improved so much (success stories that highlight hard work and determination) or I’ll ask children that haven’t improved as much but have decided what they need to do (I need to ask for help, or choose a different challenge, or make sure I focus on my learning).

TIP: You could introduce this as a Friday activity initially, with the question ‘who has improved the most this week overall?’

EXTENSION: LEARNING LINE UP. After children have decided in pairs who has improved the most, you can have them join up with another pair and see if they can form a 4-person line with the child who improved the most at one end going to the child who improved the least at the other end.


Again, keep things positive and see what you can do to help learners who feel they haven’t improved as much to learn more. Maybe make a note of learners down at one end of the line and speak to them in private to see if you can do anything to help them next lesson.

ALTERNATIVE: EFFORT PAIRS. I find this can be a good twist to throw in. Rather than discussing their improvement, the children discuss how much effort they have been putting in during the lesson (on a scale of 0-10) and either why they have given themselves a high score or what they could do next time to improve further.

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