Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Elbow Partners

K20 Center, Alexandra Parsons, Susan McHale, Alex Parsons | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


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Elbow Partners

Elbow Partners is a great formative assessment that gives students a chance to reflect, discuss, and clear up misconceptions before moving on to the next part of the lesson.

Elbow Partners


When teachers ask students to find an elbow partner, it means that students should partner with someone nearest to them. If students are in rows, they might be instructed to "find an elbow partner in your row or to your right." If students are at tables, they might be instructed to "find an elbow partner at your table." Usually, elbow partners are used as a strategy for a quick discussion before a larger class discussion begins.


  1. Give the students a prompt to discuss. This can be done before or after having students pair with an elbow partner.

  2. When it's time for students to discuss the prompt with each other, direct them to turn to their elbow partner. At this point, you can give instructions on how you would like them to select an elbow partner (pairing with the classmate to their right/left, behind or in front of them, etc.).

  3. Allow a few minutes for the students to talk about their answers to the prompt.