​Jenna Conlon
Keara Dwyer
Maggie O’Leary

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies

"The PALS activities were very easy to implement. They provided intensive times of actual reading by every student, as well as interaction with other students. It provided a valuable addition to my regular reading instruction. I believe the PALS program was of benefit to low, average, and high performing students." -A teacher's response to how she liked using the PALS program.

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Manufacturer/Producer: Doug and Lynn Fuchs

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Click on the photo above to listen to the developers, Doug and Lynn Fuchs, talk about PALS

PALS Description:

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is a type of classwide peer tutoring that is used to improve reading and math skills. Teachers pair lower and high performing students, and the partners work on different activities that address the skills that are causing problems. The pairs are changed regularly, giving all students the opportunity to act as coaches and players. PALS enables teachers to address individual student needs, as well as observe students and develop individual remedial lessons. It is a complementary strategy that teachers can use to augment their existing reading and math curricula. PALS is composed of 25-35 minute activities that are implemented 2-4 times a week.

PALS Reading, which has been developed for preschool through high school, is a structured, peer-mediated activity. Preschool PALS focuses on letter-naming, letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, initial letter sounds, vocabulary development. Kindergarten PALS focuses on letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, early decoding, and word identification. First grade PALS promotes letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, early decoding, word identification, sentence and story reading, and fluency-building activities. Second grade PALS advances decoding and word identification, fluency, and comprehension of narrative texts. The comprehension activities at second grade introduce students to critical reading strategies that include paragraph summaries and predicting future text. In the higher grades (grades 3-6) PALS emphasizes the development of fluency as well as comprehension strategies using activities that include partner reading, paragraph shrinking (identifying the main idea), and prediction relay (predicting what will be learned next, reading aloud, determining if the prediction was accurate, and summarizing the main idea).

There are three parts to PALS sessions in which the partners take turns reading and describing what they read to each other.
Task 1:
Partner Reading - the higher-achieving student reads aloud while their partner follows along correcting mistakes. After five minutes the students switch roles and reread the same selection.
Task 2:
Paragraph Shrinking - students must state the main idea in ten words or less which encourages them to display and monitor comprehension while taking turns reading one paragraph at a time. They earn points when the goals of the exercise are met.
Task 3:
Prediction Relay - a partner predicts what information will be in the next half page of text, and then reads out loud to find the information. This reading exercise includes use of the prior tasks (i.e., correcting errors and summarizing the text).
*Pairs earn points for every correct prediction and for appropriate summaries.

PALS Math entails coaching and practice for students in grades K-6. Kindergarten PALS focuses on number recognition, number concepts, and the development of a mental number line representation. Accordingly, students practice associating numerals with their numerical value, play games involving "more" and "less," and work with number lines to compare the placement and value of numbers. Early concepts of addition and subtraction are also introduced with an emphasis on "number stories." First Grade PALS becomes more challenging. A strong focus is still placed on number recognition and the development of a mental number line representation while also emphasizing place value within numeration, number concepts, and addition and subtraction concepts. The PALS curriculum also addresses missing addends and mathematical operations, and the number values extend to the hundreds. Grades 2-6 PALS program covers the comprehensive math curriculum including numeration, number concepts, computation of whole numbers, fractions and decimals, measurement and geometry, figures/graphs, and word problems. Students practice skills on gameboards (at kindergarten and first grade) and worksheets (at grades 2-6) that hone skills and concepts at each grade level. The coach uses a sheet that contains questions that guide the player. Coaching lasts about 15 - 20 minutes. At grades 2-6, PALS math also uses mixed-problem practices worksheets that include the problem type the students just worked on as well as easier types of problems. Students work independently on these worksheets, after which they exchange and score the practice sheets. Practice lasts 5 - 10 minutes.

There are two parts to PALS sessions in which the students work through math problems and activities.
Task 1:
Coaching — each of the partners work on math problems in a specific area (i.e., addition and subtractions). The "coach" questions the "player" in order to guide the activity. The "coach" has been trained in how to correct the "player." This activity should last 15-20 minutes.
Task 2:
Practice — all students receive a worksheet containing problems they just went over, some as difficult and some less challenging problems. Once they have completed the worksheet, they exchange papers and score them. This activity should last 5-10 minutes.
*Students earn points based on their cooperation, explanations, and accuracy.

Analysis of Program:
PALS research meets the highest standard of research based evidence. It involves multiple studies that incorporate randomized field trials. The research is based on classwide peer tutoring model. In these experimental studies, classrooms were randomly assigned to PALS or no-PALS classrooms that used the same curriculum. PALS teachers implemented PALS 2 to 4 times per week during normally allocated instructional time so that PALS and no-PALS children received similar amounts of instruction. The fidelity, or accuracy, with which PALS was implemented was assessed and shown to be high. Students were pre and post-tested on well known measures of reading or math to determine the amount of learning for low performing, average performing, and high performing students as well as for students with learning disabilities. Results from these experimental studies show that across these four types of learners- students with learning disabilities, low performing students without disabilities, average achievers, and high achievers- reading and math achievement is dramatically greater in PALS classrooms than in no-PALS classrooms. Students with disabilities are better known and better liked in PALS classes, and PALS students tend to express greater enjoyment with their reading and math instruction. Moreover, teachers are enthusiastic about the effectiveness and achievability of PALS. On the basis of this scientific evidence, PALS was approved by the U.S. Department of Education’s Effectiveness Panel for inclusion in the National Dissemination Network of effective educational practices for use at the school, district, and state levels. PALS-Reading and PALS-Math extend the capacity for teachers to accommodate the increasingly broad range of students in their classrooms, helping them to insure academic success of their students.







Examples of Reading Materials

Student- Peer -Mediated Coding Lesson Worksheet: Lesson 6 (found in Kindergaren Reading Teaching Manual)external image Lesson6b%20copy.gif

Sound Play Teacher-Directed Activity Sheet: First Sound B Game: Lesson 6 (found in Kindergarten Reading Teacher Manual)
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Teacher –Directed Decodable Words worksheet : Lesson 66.
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Click here to find more examples of Reading Materials

Examples of Teaching Materials: Teacher Manual used for Grades 2-6 in Reading
Each training script lists teacher materials, student materials, objectives and things to do before the lesson.external image Lesson-2-page-1.jpg Each script also contains visual outlines of all transparencies and other materials needed for the lesson.
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Each script also contains a teacher script and an outline in the margin, "Guiding Points"

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Click here for more Videos

The PALS program also does not come with its own reading materials, therefore, the teacher may chose the appropriate reading materials based on the curriculum or the students’ interests. The teachers receive materials that include training scripts, teacher- directed lessons and corresponding lessons for the students. The teachers will receive different manuals based on the grade-level they are teaching. Teachers also attend a workshop. The workshops are divided up by which grade level the teacher will be teaching, kindergarten and grade one, second grade to sixth grader and high school. Each workshop begins at 8:30 am and ends at 3:00 pm. There is a maximum enrollment of fifty (50) people; some personnel that may be in attendance are reading teachers, special educators, curriculum instruction specialists, school psychologists, teacher trainers, principals. At the workshop teachers will learn how to effectively pair students together and prepare them to work constructively together. A sample workshop agenda may be:
1. PALS Background: Research and Development
2. Learning About PALS
3. Demonstration of each PALS activity
4. Putting It All Together
5. Implementation Issues


The teacher uses the skills attained and implements the ideas into his/her classroom. This method of peer-assisted learning strategies does not provide multi-sensory instruction. The only senses that the method addresses is sight and hearing. The students read stories and complete worksheets with their peers that pertain to the stories they have read and the math concepts they are working on. Through working with their peers the PALS program provides opportunities for the students to practice and master the skills being taught. It a great supplement to use along with the reading and math lessons being taught to the class. The teacher is trained in the procedures and the way of presenting PALS. The students are able to work with their classmates and approve upon their reading and math skills. The method includes development of self-regulation and metacognitive skills because the teacher chooses appropriate reading material for the paired reading groups. Each group would be able to self-regulate according to their reading abilities. The teacher will be able to monitor the student’s progress using Curriculum Based Measurements (CBM). PALS can be used successfully without CBM but using these two components together provides the best way to monitor progress. The PALS program was designed to complement CBM therefore they work very well together.

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The PALS program is not exclusive to special education classrooms. Using this program in an inclusive classroom would be very beneficial. Many students in an inclusive classroom have difficulty with decoding and phonological awareness; therefore, this program will provide additional assistance to the students. This program would also be useful in an inclusion classroom because it will allow higher level students to help lower level students. It gives all students in the classroom to act as if they are the teacher. Placing the learning the hands of the students is one of the strengths of the program. Students will be able to work in peers and not feel embarrassed that they do not know an answer as they may with whole group instruction. The program will not only benefit the lower level learners but alsothe higher level learner as they may have significant cognitive gains. The program also gives the teacher an opportunity to circulate around the classroom, observe the students and provide individual lessons. This program also expans the instructional resources in the classroom. Teachers and students have found the program very enjoyable. As with many specialized reading programs there are some weaknesses in the program. The “coach” or peer tutor may not be able to provide the necessary teaching skills to the “player” or learner as well as a teacher may. It is important that the teacher observes closely the students as they facilitate PALS so that no one falls behind (Glynn, 2006).

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As a first year special education teacher this program would be beneficial to use. The program is not hard to teach the students and it allows the students to become actively involved in the lesson. The teacher is able to choose the reading material that is used; therefore, it can still correlate with class lessons. The teacher is able to monitor the student's progress throughout the program. Being able to chose the student's partners will help ensure that student will work productively and well together. The students having the opportunity to work with their peers will make the lessons more enjoyable for them. While the student is working with a peer they are furthering their knowledge in the area of reading and mathematics. Using this program as a supplement to other class instructions will strengthen their understanding of the subject areas. As a teacher being able to use the program in a special education setting as well as a general education setting shows how versatile the program is. It also proves that once the teacher has knowledge of the program he/she can use it in many ways and in a variety of education settings. The PALS program has many benefits to both the teacher and students.

Access Center. (2004). Using Peer Tutoring To Facilitate Access. Washington, DC.

"CEC | Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS)." CEC | Home. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. http://www.cec.sped.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=5445

Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L.S. (l998). Researchers and teachers working together to adapt instruction for diverse learners. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 13, 126-137.
Glynn, L. (2006). Helping each other to learn – a process evaluation of peer assisted learning. BioMed Central Ltd, 8(18), Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1458341/

Hughes, Charles A., and Marisa A. Macy. "Research Based Strategies for Special Needs Students - Peer Assisted Learning Strategies." PSEA. PSEA Education Services Division, Jan. 2008. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.psea.org/.../TeachingandLearning/Special%20Ed%20Peer%20Learning%20Strategies.pdf

McMaster, Kristen L., Douglas Fuchs, and Lynn S. Fuchs. "Promises and Limitations of Peer Assisted Learning Strategies in Reading." Learning Disabilites: A Contemporary Journal 5 (2007): 97-112.

McMaster, Kristen L., Shu-Hsuan Kung, Insoon Han, and Marisa Cao. "Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies: A "Tier 1" Approach to Promoting English Learners Response to Intervention." Exceptional Children 74 (2008): 194-214.

Royse, David. Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors A Practical Guide. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2000: 88-91.

Other Links to find more information on PALS: