Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up to find a partner!

Need a quick way for students to find a series of partners on the fly and with ease?

The Kagan “Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up” strategy is just what you’ve been looking for!

Step One: Stand Up!

First step? Easy! All students STAND up!

Step Two: Hand Up!

Is everyone standing? Great! Put one hand up in the air–straight elbows now! We want to make sure that everyone can see your hand!

Having your hand up in the air is your signal to the world that you are in need of a partner.

Step Three: Pair Up!

Now, look around you. Look for someone else that has their HAND UP in the air. Walk toward them, and give them a high five (or an elbow bump, if you’re concerned about germs)! 

Once you have high fived, you are PAIRed UP! You are now partners. 

Complete the task that your teacher assigns (even something simple like saying “Good morning!” to each other; or more involved like a Quiz Quiz Trade activity).

All finished? The task is done, and you need a new partner! Say “adiós, partner”, and both of you put your hands back up in the air.

Once again, your HAND UP in the air signals to the world that you are on the hunt for a new partner! Look for someone else with their HAND UP, and high five them to get a new partner and repeat the task.

Why you’ll love Stand Up Hand Up Pair Up

I know you will love this strategy like I do. Here are my two big reasons why:

Reason #1: You don’t have to organize rows or circles or establish a rotation. It is totally free-form! No organization or planning necessary.

Reason #2: Everyone is busy, all the time. As soon as a pair is done with their task, they find new partners and repeat the task. All students that are done with the task are pairing up to begin again.

Kagan's stand up hand up pair up structure is the perfect way for students to find partners in class!

Management tips

I like to assign a single task to the whole class. Depending on how long I expect the task to take to complete, I might set the expectation that students have to repeat the task with as few as five classmates or as many as ten. 

Here’s the trick–don’t wait for all students to complete all their repeats.

As soon as the first five or so students have reported back to you, letting you know that they are done, call time! Stop everyone and have everyone return to their seats (or move on to the next activity). This keeps up the pace of the class and keeps students from sitting idle. If–for whatever reason–I want all students to complete a certain number of repetitions of the activity, I just make sure that I have Fast Finisher activities ready to go.

To encourage everyone to stay on task, I typically deploy the Hole Punch Police.

Learn more Kagan structures

Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies have been a huge part of my career as a language teacher. My methods professor loved them, and my district coordinator at ASD ran a Kagan Course and brought in certified trainers for multi-day workshops. 

If you are looking for ways to give your students low-anxiety output opportunities, I highly recommend learning more about Kagan strategies through their online and print resources. If you are a department coordinator, consider bringing a representative to your school or organization!

Remember: Input precedes output

I love Kagan strategies for the opportunity that they offer my students to get up and moving and interacting positively with one another. However, I have to constantly remind myself what I know about language acquisition: INPUT PRECEDES OUTPUT.

When I plan to use a Kagan structure, here are some reflective questions that I consider before implementing:

  • What input have my students received to support their success in this activity?
  • What input can my students take in during this activity?
  • How can I modify this activity to be input-focused?
  • What measures can I take to ensure that my students remain comfortable during this activity?
  • How will I keep the output limited (short)?
  • How can I support accurate output (sentence frames, for example)?
  • How can I follow this activity with more input?
Use Kagan's STAND UP HAND UP PAIR UP activity to help your students find a series of partners quickly and with zero prep!

13 thoughts on “Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up to find a partner!

  1. Emily says:

    You are too good! I’m going to use this with my Span II when they return. Ask them if they did any of the same things and compare how they celebrated (yay past tense!!) with how they celebrate in Mexico. MIL GRACIAS 🙂

  2. Emily Serafa Manschot says:

    This is a cute idea. What do you do so that students don’t work with the same partners all the time. How do you prevent students from repeating partners? Or is it not a big concern?

    • Martina Bex says:

      Ah! Great question. I would always tell students that they had to find DIFFERENT partners. And sometimes I would need to nudge them in the direction of an available partner who wasn’t…er…their first choice.

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