Teaching Tips

Classroom-tested Peer Teaching Strategies

Share how you prepare, manage, and assess peer teaching in your classroom or why you use it.

Click here to see The Hoenny Center's interview with Julie Good, founder and leader of The Rocket Corps, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Maryland. It's an outstanding example of what one teacher can do to lead the way for kids who want to teach.

Better yet, click here to download Julie Good's description of the Rocket Corps program as designed by her.

Grounding Teacher Certification In Pre-College Experience

Posted: 08/12/2006 | From: Patrick Jones, University of the Arts, Philadelphia

One of the things I want to focus on more intensely is "grounded pedagogy" applied to music teacher education.  What I mean by that is that music ed majors come to our programs already possessing pedagogical skills and expectations.  Instead of forcing "foreign" methodologies on them, perhaps we should be helping them theorize their practice in order to help them understand and expand their pedagogical approaches based on impact and student/community needs.

All that I've seen to date on this topic on Music Teacher Ed is really still saying "do it this way", not "do it YOUR way, and we'll help you theorize and refine it." 

I've been experimenting with this in my own methods classes since they are site-based.  What I've observed is that letting my students develop their pedagogy organically appears to help them mature more quickly and adopt the teacher mindset.  What slows them down is when they have to "be" an ensemble conductor rather than a music teacher, which is assuming a role they are not accustomed to.

Spelling Dialog: Interaction Strategies For Group Decisions In A First Grade Classroom

Posted: 01/26/2006 | From: Kathy Seibel and Melissa Ridings, First Grade, The College School, Webster Groves, MO

First graders at The College School join in a spelling dialogue to meet the challenge of a new word, "hibernation."  Students use their teaching skills to demonstrate, offer options, and invite participation in order to arrive at consensus.

In groups of five or fewer, students:

1) Give demonstrations: Sound out syllables with emphasis on consonants or vowels for a certain peer's attention, for her/his own listening/benefit, and/or for the benefit of the whole group).

2) Use repetition, both immediate and intermittent, in order to sound out the syllables.

3) Use inviting questions: "Do you think…?" to encourage a certain peer's participation and for the group's consensus.

4) Give reasons for ideas: "Usually…(followed by an example to defend a spelling)."

5) Compare a syllable to a previous experience/memory: "That's what it was last time…"  "Remember when…?"

6) Offer options for agreement, clarification, confirmation of decision: "Is it 'er,' or just 'r'?"  If not one, then the other; "Do you think it's 'ni,' or 'na'?"

7) Include a peer with a different idea: Incorporate and sound out "wrong" offering and try to make it work.

From A Second Grade Classroom Teacher

Posted: 11/18/2005 | From: Sara Fabick, Long Elementary School, Lindbergh, MO (retired)

To get better pairings for peer editing, etc., I listed the whole class in order of their abilities (creativity, achievement, etc.) in the topic of the work.  Then, I cut the list in half and moved the bottom half up alongside the top half, adjusting pairs as needed to reduce conflicts and increase on-task effort.  This idea connected students who were relatively close together in abilities, but it preserved enough difference so that the experience was meaningful.  I had several such lists and gave them color names: red for math., blue for spelling, green for reading, etc.  The students knew who their partners were in each list, so all I had to do was tell them which list we were using.

From A Former Middle School Teacher Who Now Teaches Teachers And Administrators

Posted: 11/18/2005 | From: Wendy G. Troxel, Illinois State University, Normal, IL

Sometimes, I want to open a controversial topic for discussions about values, but first need to get a "sense of the room."  But I want to do this without the usual showing of hands, thereby attaching opinions to individuals.  I use a low tech version of audience response technology where you give scenarios and assign letter answers (A, B, C,) to values, choices, or opinions related to the scenario.  The students write their answers on cards. Then everybody gets up and exchanges cards at least twice so they don't know whose card they have (also gets them moving). THEN ask for show of hands on the answers they see on the card they now have. After this, we get in a discussion about the complexity of difficult issues about tolerance or diversity or other issues that have more than two sides to them, etc.  This works best in large classes at high school ages and above.

From An Elementary General Music Teacher

Posted: 01/02/2005 | From: Mary Bickel, Hoenny Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Peer teaching in a 2nd-/3rd-grade general music classroom

While moving to recorded music, a student improvises rhythmic movements for the class to imitate.

Activity: Teacher-led rhythmic movement to a wide variety of music selections, e.g., Richard Stoltzman and Worldbeat Bach, "Maidens Awake." Students take the role of the musical leader.


1) Students move to repeated 8-beat rhythmic patterns led by the teacher. (I've used a moderate tempo, 16-beat hand-jive pattern: both hands pat legs twice / two claps / fan hands with right hand on top twice / fan hands with left hand on top twice / stack fists with right fist on top twice / stack fists with left fist on top twice / thumbs over right shoulder twice / thumbs over left shoulder twice. Later, I repeat the pattern twice as fast to respond to the divisions of the beat.)

2) At the appropriate time, the teacher signals the students to choose their own rhythmic movements in response to the music.

3) The teacher points to one of the students to continue her/his movements while all other students follow the selected student's movements.

4) At the teacher's signal, students change back to follow the rhythmic movements led by the teacher.

5) The teacher (or a selected student) chooses another student to be the "leader" from her/his spot in the room while all other students follow.

6) At another time: students alternate leadership roles in pairs and continue to respond to the music.

From A Classroom Teacher (Grade 2)

Posted: 11/13/2004 | From: Sara Fabick, Crestwood Elementary School, Lindbergh, Missouri

One strategy I use is to organize my classes is teams of three, with one as captain. When I do this, solutions emerge: One girl who has a talent for teaching said, "Put Adam next to me. I'll help him." When students noticed that someone needed help they said, "Rose can help him." Rose knew she could help. Others knew, too!

From An Elementary/Middle School Music Teacher

Posted: 11/23/2003 | From: Timothy J. Lyon, Performing Arts High School, Buffalo, NY

I frequently provide opportunities for some of my students to teach other students using these teaching strategies:

1) Small group composition projects in Classroom Music

2) Sectional music rehearsals where the student leads the section

3) After school tutoring for band students

From A Primary-Grades Special Education Teacher

Posted: 10/22/2003

Daily, I have students explain and show others in a small group HOW they figured something out. It could be showing how they decoded a word. It could be how they arrived at an answer to a math problem. It could happen in ANY subject.

During a writing workshop, two students were at a "station" where they listened to peers' first drafts and critiqued whether they had a good introduction and closing. They signed if it was OK, or sent them back with ideas for revision.

All of my students seem naturally effective in helping other students learn…when I encourage them and I am there to guide them if they need it. Only a few can do this independently, however.

The most important reasons that I use peer teaching are that it increases student interest in the subject, it encourages students to see that there are many ways of arriving at the same answer and to build self esteem. Everyone has something to share.

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