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Classroom Teaching Strategies: Think-Pair-Share

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Modified on September 28, 2023

Research shows there are social, psychological, and academic benefits to collaborative learning. Creating this type of learning environment initiates relationship building, increases self-esteem and understanding, and improves speaking and listening skills among students.

One way to support collaborative learning in the classroom is to utilize the "think-pair-share" method. This method allows students to refine their understanding through discussion, and it works in any subject. 

What Is "Think-Pair-Share?"

Think-pair-share involves having students think individually and collaboratively about a problem or question. Educators may ask a question and give students a few minutes (one to three minutes) to think about their answers. They then separate students into groups and have them discuss the question as a group (two to five minutes). Finally, answers are shared with the class.

Think-pair-share teaches independence, fosters teamwork, and encourages participation. Ultimately, it helps students to remain engaged and involved throughout lessons. It can also help teachers assess whether students are adequately comprehending lessons.

When To Use Think-Pair-Share

Prior to starting a lesson, educators can use this method to help activate background knowledge or develop inferences. During the lesson, it can act as a comprehension check, and once a lesson is complete, it can be used for students to summarize what was just taught. 

When effectively used, the think-pair-share method can greatly impact what students learn and be used at any point during the learning experience. It also serves as an opportunity for teachers to plan, redirect, and assess their lesson plans.

Which Students Should Use Think-Pair-Share

All students can benefit from think-pair-share, but especially students who are more introverted or considered English Language Learners. These students might typically be hesitant to share their thoughts with other students or to speak up in class. However, the think-pair-share method provides an opportunity for them to gain comfort in a small-group setting instead of having to speak before the whole class.

Additionally, it is important to note that research shows pairing English Language Learners with English speakers does not necessarily help ELLs to learn. Instead, think-pair-share gives teachers an opportunity to allow ELLs to practice their English in a variety of ways—writing, listening, and speaking—as they work through lessons. Pairing ELL students who differ in skill range can provide a safer environment for these students to engage and share. 

Again, all students can benefit from think-pair-share because the main goal is to teach skills that all students need to learn. No matter what their skill levels are going into the activity, all students can benefit from the opportunity to practice problem solving and increase their fluency.

How To Use Think-Pair-Share

The think-pair-share method is simple. The preparation for this method is also straightforward, but the prep work is crucial for the success of this strategy. Teachers should consider what they want students to accomplish with the activity, which should be done ahead of time for the teacher to properly guide the students. What are you hoping to gauge? What are you hoping the students will learn? Preparing questions ahead of time will allow teachers to better guide the discussion and collaboration. Also, selecting the pairs or groups beforehand can help ensure students will be appropriately matched based on the desired goal or outcome. 

Each subject will have its own specific ways of utilizing think-pair-share in relation to the content. For example, with language arts, it can be used to increase reading comprehension skills. Alternatively, in math, it can be helpful for complex word problems. Think-pair-share is a versatile technique that can be used in every subject.

Tips for Using Think-Pair-Share

Here are a few tips and tricks that can make the think-pair-share method enjoyable and successful for students and teachers:

  • Create a list of questions beforehand. Include a few extra questions in case there is more time than expected or students already feel confident about the first few questions presented. 
  • Use a visible timer for each section. This will give students a more clear expectation, which can often result in more productive participation.
  • Walk around during each section. Walking around the classroom is not only a great method for keeping students quiet during the “think” time, but it will also allow the teacher to overhear conversations happening during the “pair” time. This will in turn provide a better idea of which students are struggling as well as which students to call on for insightful answers during the “share” time. 
  • Have students write. Having students write down their thoughts during the “think” section provides more accountability for them to generate their own thoughts on the topic. Teachers may opt to include a separate “write” section to give students more time to compose their thoughts. Having students write again at the end of the pairing or sharing sections can give students the opportunity to review what they learned or reveal any changes in what they originally thought. 
  • Create groups or partners for the “pair” section. The “pair” section may not always be just groups or two students. Sometimes groups of three or four students are beneficial, especially when more challenging subjects or topics are involved.
  • Assign roles for the groups. When walking around the room and listening to a group's discussion, a teacher can assign roles like “reporter” and “recorder” for each group. Doing this, can give a more quiet student the “recorder” role by taking notes and a more confident student the “reporter” role who then shares their group’s answers out loud for the whole class. 
  • Review and reteach. Often, think-pair-share will help educators see areas where some review or reteaching needs to happen. Teachers can bring up any problems that need to be retaught they noticed while walking around the room or while students were sharing. 

For Targeted Teaching Support, Partner with Voyager Sopris Learning

Voyager Sopris Learning® programs can help students in reading, math, and more. From foundational building blocks like reading and writing to curriculum that focuses on STEM subjects, educators can feel confident they have the right tools to support student success.