Think-Pair-Share is a teaching strategy that has a number of benefits in the classroom, both for teachers and students.

How it works
  1. The teacher first poses a question that each student considers independently for a few minutes.
  2. Students pair up or form small groups to discuss the question with their peers for three to five minutes.
  3. The teacher opens the question for a full class discussion, where ideas from different groups can be explored. 
Benefits of Think-Pair-Share

Classroom activities can become repetitive over time, and the Think-Pair-Share strategy allows teachers to introduce some variety. It also provides students of different dispositions and levels of understanding to think through lessons without fear of public speaking, or of being held back or left behind—the personal interaction fostered by smaller groups lets students participate at their own level of comfort.

Additionally, teachers can use Think-Pair-Share to assess student understanding by floating between groups and taking the opportunity to guide discussion.

Elements to keep in mind

There are some important considerations when running Think-Pair-Share activities to ensure productivity. Open-ended questions are more likely to generate discussion and higher-order thinking.

Students should also have an appropriate amount of time to consider the question at each step in the activity. Some questions are more complex than others—with too little time, students won’t fully explore the question, but with too much time, the discussion can easily veer off topic.

As far as group size is concerned, smaller groups are better to give everyone a chance to speak.

Potential challenges

Despite its benefits, the Think-Pair-Share strategy has challenges to overcome. Some students may squander independent thinking time, depend on their partner too much in the pairing stage, or hide among the crowd during class discussion. The best way for teachers to counter this is to select questions aligned with class interests.

Student engagement can also be incentivized through participation grades, letting students know they will be called on to share responses, or including activity topics on exams.

With the opportunity to bring students together and foster understanding, Think-Pair-Share can have a positive impact in the classroom.