8 Dec 2016

Rethinking Think, Pair, Share

dialogue1We can find evidence of many industrial-age teaching strategies in classrooms across the country, and one of the most prevalent is the practice of students raising their hands and being called upon to answer a question. One of the first things I recommend to teachers wanting to have students take more ownership of their learning is to ditch this practice and replace it with Think, Pair, Share.

In the Think, Pair, Share model, the teacher poses a question, students construct their thoughts independently, then discuss them with a partner, then a few groups are called upon to share. The beauty of this system is that every student is required to think and discuss an answer. The downside is that somehow, the think time in Think, Pair, Share seems to get short shrift.

Maybe the class is eager to get their answers out, maybe we just don’t feel like we have time, but often we say in one breath, “think about your answer and discuss it with your partner,” and so the students jump right into discussion. When this happens, we have inadvertently skipped perhaps the most valuable piece of the process.

We want students to develop reflective habits where they consider their answers before stating them, where they construct their thoughts before voicing them. So yield some time to the “think” in Think, Pair, Share. Maybe even challenge the class to visualize their thinking by conducting a Sketch, Pair, Share where they sketch their thoughts independently before sharing with their partners.

Doubling down on this idea, here’s something else to consider. If the students are eager to skip past the think time, you may want to revisit the types of questions you’re asking. If you want students to think critically, only ask critical questions that are worthy of think time.

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