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Utilizing the Think-Pair-Share

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Many students these days are Bio Med, Finance, Marketing, or Nursing majors to name a few. These students are accustomed to 200-person classrooms where watching long PowerPoints and taking notes for the upcoming exam are common pratices. 

Writing classes, however, are often hugely different. With a cap of 22 students per class, we, as writing instructors, are able to learn our students’ names, and create a more engaging classroom environment by utilizing participatory techniques.

I’m almost positively sure that my students do not want to hear me lecture every class for an hour and fifteen minutes. By 2 P.M., if I were to do this, they’d be falling asleep while sitting up.

Enter: The Think-Pair-Share—a teaching technique I learned in a previous practicum course where students are asked to think individually about a set of questions, then exchange ideas with their peers, all before coming back to discuss together as a class.

More specifically, it works like this: My students read a brief piece of writing in class and are then given a one page set of about five questions. They are given 10-15 minutes to quietly write their own answers before they pair up with a classmate sitting next to them to exchange each other’s ideas. When this happens, the classroom breaks from quiet study hall to nervous laughter, smiling, and the exchanging of names. This is often how they meet one another for the first time. Then, after discussing their answers with their peers, we come back together as a class and I ask different groups to answer the initial questions handed out.  

The Think-Pair-Share works well for many reasons.

  1. It puts the onus on the students to articulate responses to in-class texts and allows for an interesting way of using class time (versus a one hour and fifteen minute lecture).
  2. It allows students to think both individually about their answers and also allows them to collaborate or exchange ideas after they’ve answered questions on their own.
  3. Instead of cold-calling on students, this method allows students time and preparation to thoughtfully articulate well-developed answers and gain the confidence they need to answer in front of the whole class.
  4. It allows them to have fun. They meet their neighbors, talk to their classmates, and while they are engaging with the text, questions, and answers at hand, they are also forming classroom relationships and rapport with their peers, breaking the pattern of staring into phone glows and computer screens.


In addition to lecturing, Think-Pair-Shares have revitalized my classrooms, have given students agency, power, and room to speak, and have strengthened the rapport between my students, and with me, their instructor. Because of the many positive outcomes associated with Think-Pair-Shares, these exercises have become, and will remain, mainstays in my writing classrooms.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

I like these ideas and am familiar with the ThinkPairShare approach to collaborative learning. I do have a question, however. Depending on class dynamics, I've found that sometimes this approach works very well, and other times it backfires, particularly after the semester is well underway and students have begun to gravitate into cliques. One semester I tried to micromanage this tendency by creating various permutations of table arrangements which were designed to change things. I don't really want to do this, but I'd be interested in any ideas/suggestions about breaking up cliques, encouraging students to "make new friends" (so to speak), and also, to ensure that the 15 minutes or so of the "pair" aspect of the ThinkPairShare scenario does, in fact, result in students discussing the questions at hand and not getting off topic, socializing, etc. For the record, I primarily teach Introductory Composition and/or Freshman Composition at a community college. 

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I use both pair work and group work as often as I practically can in my

writing classes and it does keep things lively

and makes both the teaching and learning experience a more fruitful one.

On Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 11:10 AM, annalise_mabe <

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That's a great point. When this happens mid-way through my semester, I'll pair groups up on my own strategically and tell them who they're working with. This way, the instructor is responsible for the pairing and is "making" them group up so they can feel less awkward about reaching out to someone new. This definitely helps cut back on some of the cliquish behavior.