Teaching Opinion

A Think-Pair-Share on Think-Pair-Share

By David Ginsburg — December 31, 2014 2 min read
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Think-Pair-Share can be a great way to engage students and assess their understanding. It can also help develop students’ communication and collaboration skills, and build their confidence.

Think-Pair-Share begins with the teacher asking a question or assigning a problem for students to think about or solve on their own. Students then discuss their thoughts or solutions in pairs (or small groups). And finally, students share their thoughts with the whole class.

As with any strategy, the impact of Think-Pair-Share depends on implementation. So, what are the keys to Think-Pair-Share effectiveness? I’ve thought about this based on observations in many classrooms. I’ve also exchanged thoughts about this with a few colleagues. Now it’s time to share:

  1. Ask “thinking” questions. As a rule, only use Think-Pair-Share for open-ended questions or problems that are conducive to meaningful discussion. It would be better, for example, to ask “Why do you think the author chose this setting?” than “What is the setting?”
  2. Stress “think.” It’s important for all students to think on their own when you ask a “thinking” question. Stress this before asking such questions, and support it by giving students adequate think time. Otherwise some students may treat it as a Pair-Share, which leads to knee-jerk responses and unequal participation.
  3. Add “write.” Writing can help students process and articulate their thoughts, so encourage them to write during the think stage. (Writing during the pair stage is often a good idea too.). You might even refer to this as “Think/Write-Pair-Share,” as I do when using this approach at workshops.
  4. Re-think “share.” Don’t feel obligated to have students share with each other as a whole class. Instead, make an informed decision about this by circulating (perpetual proximity) as students are thinking (and writing!) on their own, and sharing in pairs. Determine based on what you see and hear whether a whole-group discussion would be rich or redundant, and proceed accordingly.
  5. Use a timer. Using a timer for the think and pair stages can help distinguish them from each other, and deter students from jumping straight to the pair discussion, per above. Do your best to set times as part of your planning, but make adjustments if necessary based on what you notice as you circulate.
  6. Have partners share. When you do go forward with whole-group sharing, consider having students share a partner’s ideas rather than their own. This can help them develop listening and paraphrasing skills, and have a positive effect on classroom culture.

Those are my thoughts on using Think-Pair-Share effectively. Please share yours.

Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz, provided by Dreamstime license

The opinions expressed in Coach G’s Teaching Tips are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.