Think Pair Share…Gives Voice!

Our Think Pair Share blog series exposes teachers and administrators to examples of high-leverage strategies that support strong pedagogy in every classroom. Think Pair Share is a strategy that many teachers have heard of, but may not be implemented as rigorously as possible. When executed effectively, we frequently hear comments from teachers like this:

“I have never heard my students open up in class so much.”

“They really enjoyed sharing what they learned!”

“Not only did I set it up so everyone could participate, but everyone wanted to engage!”

“I always thought I knew this strategy, but doing it like this gives my students so much opportunity to open up verbally, think critically and learn from one another.”

“Hearing my students share their opinions and their reflections opened my mind to realizing how much more student voice needs to be a regular part of my classroom.”

Few strategies elicit as much excitement from teachers than Think Pair Share. They are even more excited when they realize that it’s not only a tool for engaging students in instructional content but a way to help develop a strong, positive culture by infusing more student voice into the classroom.

The Think Pair Share strategy has been around for what seems like forever, but the way we train it is based not only on best practices from researchers, but on the foundation that students’ voices need to be heard, their experiences respected, and their background knowledge used as a strategic foundation from which to build upon the learning that takes place in the classroom.

No-Nonsense Nurturer connect learning objectives to students’ lives in authentic, relevant ways. At CT3, we work with teachers to understand that when learning is made meaningful to students, they’re not only engaged in an assignment, but they want to learn more about the objective on deeper levels. Motivating students doesn’t have to come with extrinsic rewards but can be as simple as taking the time to communicate why the learning is important for them, at their age, living in their community while considering their interests and values.

Essential components of the Think Pair Share strategy often don’t differ structurally from what most teachers already know about it. A strong Think Pair Share begins with planning a rigorous, open-ended question. Once that is planned to assess students’ knowledge, the procedure needs to be taught (and repeated) to support student learning.

The question can be tricky but when it’s done well, it’s incredible what students can reflect on, discuss and share! One of our associates was recently a part of a Real Time Teacher Coaching® session where the teacher was introducing the concept of gravity to her students and wanted to attempt a Think Pair Share. After drawing connections with her students’ love of basketball, she identified a way for them to connect the learning with their own lives.

How do you think basketball would be played on the moon?

The students eagerly engaged in the question – relating the topic to what they already knew about gravity and ways they would have to modify their basketball skills to make basketball work on the moon.

Were all of the ideas accurate?

Not necessarily, but because it was at the start of her lesson, it helped her assess background knowledge while allowing student voice to be heard on a topic that affected each of them – gravity! At the end of the unit, when she asked that same question during the Think Pair Share, she was able to document growth based on their latest responses!

Although having a rigorous and relevant, open-ended question is at the core of this strategy, what truly allows students the opportunity to be heard is through well-planned procedures during each part of the Think, the Pair and the Share. When students are given specific time to organize their thoughts, (possibly) jot them down and prepare to share out loud, they are developing the ability to synthesize their thinking, prioritize their message and enhance their ability to communicate effectively.

Before students pair up to share thoughts, the teacher informs the class that they will be sharing their partner’s response (instead of their own). This builds both critical listening skills and effective communication skills. When it is time for sharing out loud, students not only share their partner’s responses but it is prime time for deeper, Socratic-type discussions to take place, building on their own initial idea or thought. Nearly as important is that students are building relationships with one another by hearing new perspectives, respecting their peers’ opinions, and learning the value of contributions from everyone in the classroom community.

As noted, having a rigorous, open-ended question is essential for a successful Think Pair Share. Below is a sampling of the type of questions that can encourage risk-taking and allow for teachers and students to build a classroom culture that is truly student-centered and transformative:

Examples of Think Pair Share questions to build relationships:

  • How can you use your strengths to give to others?
  • When is a time you felt ashamed or embarrassed by a teacher?
  • What scares you? Why?
  • What is something you wish you could learn about?
  • What stresses you out?
  • How do you want people to describe you?
  • What do you want to be better at?
  • What are you passionate about?

Examples of Think Pair Share questions to assess content or background knowledge:

  • How is the setting in our story important for the plot?
  • In what ways could a researcher go about testing the elements of the periodic table?
  • How could you use algebra to solve problems in our community?
  • How does the protagonist in the story support the plot? What do you predict might happen in future chapters?  Why?
  • Using evidence from your text, explain to your partner why aqueducts were so important in ancient Rome.
  • Citing examples, where do you think the character in our story finds their strength?

Regardless of grade level, effective educators know that to establish and cultivate a positive classroom community, students must have a voice in daily classroom activities. Think Pair Share is a strategy that gives students a voice, enhances communication skills, supports active listening and critical thinking skills while giving teachers a chance to learn more about their students or formatively assess students’ understanding, in just a few minutes!

By Kristyn Klei Borrero, CT3’s CEO and Co-Founder, Jackie Surratt, CT3 Associate, and Carrie Lupoli, former special education teacher-turned-educator and nutrition coach

Click below for related posts:

Our suites of pedagogical strategies provide the strategic framework, and Real Time Teacher Coaching supports school leaders and teachers at every step. Check out CT3 Education programs such as No-Nonsense Nurturer, Real Time Teacher Coaching, and Real Time Leadership Coaching to find out more about Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders, classroom management strategies, and building relationships with students and their families.
Category: No-Nonsense Nurturer, Real Time Teacher Coaching, Relationship Building, Teaching