Lunch Choice Management Idea and a Partner Management Freebie

I want to share a couple management ideas for those first weeks back. These ideas have been so helpful in my classroom, and they are also so much fun for my kids.

The first idea I want to share is our lunch choice board. I have tried so many different ways to take lunch count in the past, and this version is my absolute favorite! It’s so easy to set up and even easier to manage.

All I did was take a picture of each student, printed out as each picture in a wallet-sized print, laminated them, and put magnets on the backs. That’s it! I love this because not only is this a quick and easy way to take lunch count, but I can quickly see who is absent. I don’t have to go through a bunch of numbered popsicle sticks in a cup or see which numbered magnets weren’t moved to a lunch choice in the morning. All I have to do is look to see which student didn’t move their picture to a lunch choice (double check that they didn’t just forget), and I know they are absent.

This is what students see in the morning when they come in to make their lunch choice. It is a students job to remove all the pictures from the choice board at the end of the day.

Here is what the board would look like if two students were absent.

My next idea is a great way to manage student partners! My version is called cell-phone partners!

The original idea of using the cell phone to partner up comes from the fabulous Mrs. Lewis of Mrs. Lewis’ Learning Library, and with her permission, I adapted her lower-elementary concept for an upper-elementary classroom.

For those of you who are not familiar with this, it is a cooperative learning strategy that makes partnering your students for any activity super easy. My students think this is the coolest thing ever, and I am sure your students will feel the same!

Here’s how to complete them:
1.) Print paper cell phones on card stock

2.) Cut out the individual cell phones and give every student one phone. Make sure students write their names on the back of their phones so they know which phone is theirs.

3.) Give students the direction that they are to walk around the room and “exchange numbers” with other students. You may want to quickly model this for students before beginning.

4.) Ask students to stand up with their paper cell phones and a pencil, and instruct them to begin moving quietly around the room.

5.) Give a signal to indicate to students that they are to stop moving and find a partner. Options for the signal include: playing and stopping music, clapping, ringing a bell, buzzer, chimes, etc.

6.) When all of the students have stopped and found a partner, ask them to sign their partner’s paper cell phone in the box above “Partner 1.” For example, if Katie and Brian are partners, Katie’s “Partner 1” box would have Brian’s name, and Brian’s “Partner 1” box would have Katie’s name.

7.) Give students the signal to move around the room again. Once they’ve been given enough time to move around the room, signal them to stop and find a new partner.

8.) When all of the students have a partner, ask them to sign their partner’s paper cell phone in the box above “Partner 2.”

9.) Repeat the steps until all 10 partner boxes are complete.

10.) Laminate the paper cell phones and put magnets on the back to stick to the sides of students’ desks or any other safe area that students have access to.

11.) When you are completing any partner or cooperative learning activities, simply call out a speed dial number by saying, for example, “Dial up partner #4.”

12.) Whoever the student has listed for that number is the partner he/she will work with at that time.

*Side note: If students are not able to stick their paper cell phones to their desks with magnets, remind them to store them in a very safe place. If a student misplaces his/her phone, or a student moves, you will have to start over and make new phones. 

*For classrooms with an odd number of students, there will be one group of 3 partners for each partner box.

Also, before my students walked around the room and wrote down their partners for each numbered slot, I modeled how to complete the phone-a-friend phones. I went through about every student and said:

Miss Nannini: “Shane if Maria’s partner #1, says Shane, what should your partner #1 say?” 
Shane: “My partner #1 should say Maria”

So, if you want to be the coolest teacher, and/or save yourself the stress of partnering students up, then click HERE to check out my free Phone a Friend {Student-Partnering Management Tool}.


  1. Thanks for the freebie! Can’t wait to use it with my class!

  2. You’re welcome! I am so glad you like it and can use it! I promise your kids will love them!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I do something similar to this but I assign 4 of the slots. One has a partnership with a strong/weak reader, a strong/weak math, same skilled reading, same skilled math, by doing this I can say go to your specific partners depending on the activity we are doing. When it doesn’t matter I give the other numbers.

  4. Thank you everyone! I’m so happy you all like it and can use it! I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine did! :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Love this idea. Just trying to think ahead – what do you do when you get a new student? Or if one leaves? Would be nice if it was around the same time though :) -Becky

  6. Thanks! I am so glad you can use it. My kids love it! All that I do when I get a new student or when a student moves is re-do them. Honestly the kids love doing these, and it’s good to redo them because it allows for a refresh. It’s good to have students pick new partners so that they have the opportunity to work with new students vs. the same 10 all year. I hope this helps!

  7. This is a neat partner idea. I teach first so I may not be able to implement it at the beginning of the year but with lots of modeling maybe we’ll get it. At the end of the year I do something similar with lunch count. Oh. my. word. It is heavenly compared to reading lunch choices and voting and then figuring out the absent kid. Great ideas. :D

    You Might Be a First Grader….

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for the freebie! Can’t wait to use it with my fourth graders!

  9. julie mcdougall says:

    My kids were so excited about these. I tried it twice with my class last year and someone always made a mistake, so it didn’t quite work. Do you think it would work with just using maybe 6 numbers on the phone?

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Hi Julie- I’m so happy to hear your kids were excited about these! If you’re struggling with 10 options for partners, then I highly recommend limiting their options. It will help make things run smoother for sure. Good luck!

  10. Loved it! Created a bigger one and credited you as the inspiration!

  11. How do I print this? Is there a link to click to get a PDF?

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