Think Pair Share Activity

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Think, Pair, Share is a structure first developed by Professor Frank Lyman at the University of Maryland in 1981 and adopted by many writers in the field of co-operative learning since then. It introduces into the peer interaction element of co-operative learning the idea of ‘wait or think’ time, which has been demonstrated to be a powerful factor in improving student responses to questions.

It is a simple strategy, effective from early childhood through all subsequent phases of education to tertiary and beyond. It is a very versatile structure, which has been adapted and used, in an endless number of ways. This is one of the foundation stones for the development of the ‘co-operative classroom.’


Processing information, communication, developing thinking.


Sharing information, listening, asking questions, summarising others’ ideas, paraphrasing.


  1. Teacher poses a problem or asks an open-ended question      to which there may be a variety of answers.
  2. Teacher gives the students ‘think time’ and directs      them to think about the question.
  3. Following the ‘think time’ students turn to face their      Learning Partner and work together, sharing ideas, discussing, clarifying      and challenging.
  4. The pair then share their ideas with another pair, or      with the whole class. It is important that students need to be able to      share their partner’s ideas as well as their own.

It counrages:

Positive interdependence

The students are able to learn from each other

Individual accountability

Students are accountable to each other for sharing ideas. The student may also be required to share their partner’s ideas to another pair or whole group.

Equal participation

Each student within the group has an equal opportunity to share. It is possible that one student may try to dominate. The teacher can check this does not happen.

Simultaneous interaction

High degrees of interaction. At any one moment all of the students will be actively engaged in purposeful speaking and listening. Compare this with the usual practice of teacher questioning where only one or two students would be actively engaged.


Before a lesson or topic to orient the class (previous knowledge etc).

During teacher modeling or explanation.

Any time, to check understanding of material.

At the end of a teacher explanation, demonstration etc, to enable students to cognitively process the material.

To break up a long period of sustained activity.

Whenever it is helpful to share ideas.

For clarification of instructions, rules of a game, homework etc.

For the beginning of a plenary session.


Think, Pair, Share can be used in all curriculum areas and is limited only by the creativity of the teacher. This structure along with Numbered Heads Together is an excellent substitute for the normally competitive structures in a question and answer session.


This is an essential structure to introduce early in the process of establishing the ‘co-operative classroom.’ It ensures a high level of engagement (it is hard to be left out of a pair!) and is more secure than a large group.

Think, Pair, Share has many advantages over the traditional questioning structure. The ‘Think Time’ incorporates the important concept of ‘wait time’. It allows all children to develop answers. Longer and more elaborate answers can be given. Answers will have reasons and justifications because they have been thought about and discussed. Students are more willing to take risks and suggest ideas because they have already ‘tested’ them with their partner.



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What is Think, Pair, Share?

Think-Pair-Share is a strategy designed to provide students with “food for thought” on a given topics enabling them to formulate individual ideas and share these ideas with another student. It is a learning strategy developed by Lyman and associates to encourage student classroom participation. Rather than using a basic recitation method in which a teacher poses a question and one student offers a response, Think-Pair-Share encourages a high degree of pupil response and can help keep students on task.

What is its purpose?

  • Providing      “think time” increases quality of student responses.
  • Students      become actively involved in thinking about the concepts presented in the      lesson.
  • Research      tells us that we need time to mentally “chew over” new ideas in      order to store them in memory. When teachers present too much information      all at once, much of that information is lost. If we give students time to      “think-pair-share” throughout the lesson, more of the critical      information is retained.
  • When      students talk over new ideas, they are forced to make sense of those new      ideas in terms of their prior knowledge. Their misunderstandings about the      topic are often revealed (and resolved) during this discussion stage.
  • Students      are more willing to participate since they don’t feel the peer pressure      involved in responding in front of the whole class.
  • Think-Pair-Share      is easy to use on the spur of the moment.
  • Easy      to use in large classes.

How can I do it?

  • With      students seated in teams of 4, have them number them from 1 to 4.
  • Announce      a discussion topic or problem to solve. (Example: Which room in our school      is larger, the cafeteria or the gymnasium? How could we find out the      answer?)
  • Give      students at least 10 seconds of think time to THINK of their own answer.      (Research shows that the quality of student responses goes up      significantly when you allow “think time.”)
  • Using      student numbers, announce discussion partners. (Example: For this      discussion, Student #1 and #2 will be partners. At the same time, Student      #3 and #4 will talk over their ideas.)
  • Ask      students to PAIR with their partner to discuss the topic or solution.
  • Finally,      randomly call on a few students to SHARE their ideas with the class.

Teachers may also ask students to write or diagram their responses while doing the Think-Pair-Share activity. Think, Pair, Share helps students develop conceptual understanding of a topic, develop the ability to filter information and draw conclusions, and develop the ability to consider other points of view.

Uses for think, pair, share

Note check, Vocabulary review, Quiz review, Reading check, Concept review, Lecture check, Outline, Discussion questions, Partner reading, Topic development, Agree/Disagree, Brainstorming, Simulations, Current events opinion, Conceding to the opposition, Summarize, Develop an opinion

Hints and Management Ideas

  • Assign      Partners – Be sure to assign discussion partners      rather than just saying “Turn to a partner and talk it over.”      When you don’t assign partners, students frequently turn to the most      popular student and leave the other person out.
  • Change      Partners – Switch the discussion partners frequently.      With students seated in teams, they can pair with the person beside them      for one discussion and the person across from them for the next      discussion.
  • Give      Think Time – Be sure to provide adequate “think      time.” I generally have students give me a thumbs-up sign when they      have something they are ready to share.
  • Monitor      Discussions – Walk around and monitor the discussion      stage. You will frequently hear misunderstandings that you can address      during the whole-group that discussion that follows.
  • Timed-Pair-Share – If you notice that one person in each pair is monopolizing the      conversation, you can switch to “Timed-Pair-Share.” In this      modification, you give each partner a certain amount of time to talk. (For      example, say that Students #1 and #3 will begin the discussion. After 60      seconds, call time and ask the others to share their ideas.)
    Rallyrobin – If students have to list ideas in their discussion, ask them      to take turns. (For example, if they are to name all the geometric shapes      they see in the room, have them take turns naming the shapes. This allows      for more equal participation.) The structure variation name is Rallyrobin      (similar to Rallytable, but kids are talking instead of taking turns      writing).
  • Randomly      Select Students – During the sharing stage at the end, call      on students randomly. You can do this by having a jar of popsicle sticks      that have student names or numbers on them. (One number for each student      in the class, according to their number on your roster.) Draw out a popsicle      stick and ask that person to tell what their PARTNER said. The first time      you do this, expect them to be quite shocked! Most kids don’t listen well,      and all they know is what they said! If you keep using this strategy, they      will learn to listen to their partner.
  • Questioning – Think-Pair-Share can be used for a single question or a series      of questions. You might use it one time at the beginning of class to say      “What do you know about ________ ?” or at the end of class to      say “What have you learned today?”

How can I adapt it?

  • Think-Write-Pair-Share – To increase individual accountability, have students jot down      their ideas before turning to a partner to discuss them. You can walk      around the room and look at what they are writing to see who understands the      concept. It also keeps kids from adopting the attitude that they will just      sit back and let their partner to all the thinking.
  • Science – Making predictions about an experiment, discussing the results      of an experiment, talking over charts and graphs, drawing conclusions,      developing a concept through discussion, talking about environmental      problems.
  • Health – Discussing healthful practices, talking about how to handle      stress, discussing proper placement of foods in food groups, analyzing      problems in a diet, reviewing body systems,
  • Social      Studies – Discussing political viewpoints, learning      about latitude and longitude, discussing economic trends, analyzing causes      and effects of important events, discussing important contributions of      historical figures
  • Math      Problem-Solving – Place a complex problem on the overhead      (For example, use one of the Weekly Math Challenges found in the Math File      Cabinet.) Ask students to think about the steps they would use to solve      the problem, but do not let them figure out the actual answer. Without      telling the answer to the problem, have students discuss their strategies      for solving the problem. Then let them work out the problem individually      and compare answers.
  • Math – Practicing how to read large numbers, learning how to round      numbers to various places, reviewing place value, solving word problems      (as described above), recalling basic geometric terms, discussing the      steps of division, discussing how to rename a fraction to lowest terms
  • Spelling – Call out a word, have them think of the spelling, then designate      one person to turn and whisper the spelling to their partner. The partner      gives a thumbs-up to show agreement, or corrects the spelling. You can      reveal the correct spelling by uncovering the word from a chart.
  • Reading – Discuss character traits and motives, make predictions before a      chapter or at the end of a read-aloud session, discuss the theme of a book      or story, make guesses about vocabulary words based on context clues in      the story, discuss the meaning of similes and metaphors in a story
  • Language      Arts – Discuss Daily Oral Language responses,      discuss ways to edit or revise a piece of writing, talk over story ideas,      discuss letter-writing conventions
  • Art – Discuss elements of artistic compositions, discuss symbolism in      artwork, compare and contrast the various works of a particular artist,      analyze the use of color and line in works of art
  • Music – Identify elements of musical compositions, identify instruments      in musical selections, compare and contrast types of music

Assessment and Evaluation Considerations

Listening skills, communication skills, using appropriate structures and features of spoken language, effective note taking and co-operative skills are most effectively assessed when using this strategy.

Student Benefits
With Think-Pair-Share, students are given time to think through their own answers to the question(s) before the questions are answered by other peers and the discussion moves on. Students also have the opportunity to think aloud with another student about their responses before being asked to share their ideas publicly. This strategy provides an opportunity for all students to share their thinking with at least one other student; this, in turn, increases their sense of involvement in classroom learning.

As a Cooperative Learning strategy, Think-Pair-Share also benefits students in the areas of peer acceptance, peer support, academic achievement, self-esteem, and increased interest in other students and school.

Teacher Benefits
Students spend more time on task and listen to each other more when engaged in Think-Pair-Share activities. More students are willing to respond in large groups after they have been able to share their responses in pairs. The quality of students responses also improves.

Teacher Resources

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