A Relationship Tool for Any Classroom

John Norlin · October 31, 2017

Clock Partners is a simple and effective tool that any classroom teacher can use to immediately create four different partner pairings as well as a vehicle to promote interactions between students that you can teach relational skills to support the development of the whole child.

Time Needed: 5 minutes


  • Give each student a copy of a clock partner sheet.
  • Tell students that when you say “Go”, they are to move about the room and find one 12 o’clock partner, one 3 o’clock partner, one 6 o’clock partner, and one 9 o’clock partner.
  • When a student finds a partner with an open time slot, they should write that person’s name down for the identified time slot and have their new partner write their name down for the same time slot.
  • At the end of the time given to find partners, help students by asking if anyone needs a 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, or 9 o’clock partner. Help students find partners and or have a single student who is left over become your partner if needed.
  • Ask students to keep the clock partner sheet near the front of their binder or notebook for quick reference throughout the semester.
  • During any class lesson you can say, “Find your 6 o’clock partner or 9 o’clock partner” to immediately have students move and interact.


By creating a tool that you can quickly and easily have students interact with four different students you can accomplish multiple positive outcomes:

  1. Having students stand up and move, especially after lunch, increases blood flow by 11% immediately and helps keep their attention.

  2. Before having students discuss an academic question connected to your lesson, first ask students to greet each other with a proper handshake, that you have previously taught, and then ask students to do one of the following relationship building activities. This allows them to build relationships with students in their class that they may never formed before.

Relationship Building Tasks:

Ask students a “Get to Know” question to answer together before giving them the academic question to discuss. Some example questions are:

  • What is a special talent that you have or have been told that you have?
  • What is a special talent that you wish you had and why?
  • What is a highlight for you this past year?
  • What object that you have in your life is most important to you and why?
  • What relationship is most important to you in your life and why?
  • What is the best news that you could receive right now and why?
  • If you could visit any part of the world that you have not been yet, where would you choose to go and why?
  • Who is someone that you have always wanted to meet and what is one question you would ask them?
  • What are you most passionate about in life and why?
  • Ask students to share one thing that they are grateful for today.
  • Have students challenge each other to a game of best two out of three rock paper scissors and whoever loses asks a question to get to know the person that beat them.
  • Give students a mind puzzle or brain teaser that you have previously prepared and challenge them to figure out together.
  • Ask students to come up with a creative solution together to a question like, “If you could put two animals together to create a new animal, what two animals would you choose and what would the new animals name be?”

By intentionally finding ways for students to regularly interact relationally and practice even the most simple of relational skills that are so critical for them to learn, we can infuse Social Emotional Learning and Character Development into the very fabric of our school. When students get to know each other, it is harder to demonstrate negative behaviors like bullying, intimidation, and harassment. When students know each other, they are more likely to help each other when someone is in need. When students know each other, they are more likely to ask for help from their peers. When students interact with each other in a positive way, you continue to promote and create a positive school climate and culture where students and staff want to come to school and this positively impacts larger school goals around attendance, academics, and behavior.


John Norlin

John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.