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Using common instructional strategies across the team is effective and efficient.  One team member can teach the strategy and others can reinforce it using their own content material.  The students quickly become familiar with the process and thus concentrate on thinking about the concept under discussion rather than worrying about the steps in process.

Think-Pair-Share, developed by Frank Lyman and Arlene Mindus back in 1977, is probably one of the best strategies to adopt as a team. Here are three reasons why:

1. It is versatile. It can be used before, during, and/or after reading an assignment or viewing a video or presentation or  participating in a direct instruction lesson.

2. It incorporates strategies that have a high probability of increasing achievement and therefore fits into the category of research-based strategies for the RTI tiers.

  • summarizing
  • comparing-contrasting
  • restating an idea in a new way
  • collaboration
  • think time
  • using different learning modalities

3. Think-pair-shares can be done in a variety of formats and thus used in any content area and with any age group.

The Think-Pair-Share process is very straightforward:

  1. Teacher asks a question or provides a prompt.
  2. Students are given time to think individually about their responses.
  3. Students pair up and discuss their responses.
  4. Student pairs share their their ideas with a larger group.

Kaganonline sells a Smart Card for $4.00 that gives all sorts of ways to think, to pair, and to share. Here are several ideas adapted from this source and others:

Ways to ask your students to THINK about things:

  • How are things alike? Students look for similarities between items, events or ideas. How are fractions and decimals alike?
  • How are things different? Students look for differences between items, events, or ideas.  How were the American Revolution and the French Revolution different?
  • How do things look differently from inside or from the outside? Students imagine what it would be like to be an observer inside or outside an item, event, system, etc. You are foreign entity floating along the circulatory system and are about to be attacked by white blood cells, tell us what is happening to you.
  • What is your estimate or prediction? Students must make an educated guess or an inference using given information and their own general background information. If another huge Pacific rim volcano erupted and spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that the sun was only half as bright, how would we be impacted here in Maine?

Different processes to ask students to use when they PAIR up:

  • Devil’s advocate–students respond to their partner’s points with views that are the opposite. Let’s look at this from an opposite point of view.
  • Tell/Add on: partner # 1 starts the discussion and then partner # 2 adds on to the story or information. Another cause of the Civil War was…
  • Interview: Partners interview one another to find out what each other is thinking.  Roles can be assumed. So General Pickett, what were you thinking when you ordered your men to charge?
  • Act: partners act out the response. First create an equilateral triangle and then make the shape of an isosceles triangle.
  • Tweet their ideas and then collaborate with their partners to capture their combined ideas in 140 characters or less.  They can then tweet that information or post it to a class wiki.  Partners do not have to be in the same room.  Partners might be in a different classroom in the school or across the world, but responding to the same prompt.

Different ways for the partners to SHARE their thinking:

Chart: each set of partners makes a chart and posts it.  The group walks around looking at charts. One alternative is to allow students to write pertinent comments, observations, or questions on the chart.  When everyone returns to their seats, the teacher asks the students to reflect on what they have seen:

  • What similarities do you see?
  • What surprises were there for you?
  • Which of our questions have been answered?
  • What new questions do we have?

Chalk talk: Post a big piece of mural paper in the front of the room with the prompt written on it. Give students chalk or markers to represent their thinking in a graphic way. Process using questions above.

Ask partners to pair up with another set and have the four share their ideas. Ask each group to choose one or two ideas to share with the entire group.  Chart and discuss.

Mini white boards: Partners write their answers on the white board and at a given signal hold up their responses.

Class wiki: partners post their responses on a class wiki that the teacher projects  on a screen for everyone to see, and students can access these ideas 24/7 for reference in future assignments.

Online chat: students could be sharing ideas across schools, states, or countries by using online chats like Skype.

So an entire sequence might go like this…

  1. Everyone make a list of all the ways that decimals and fractions are similar or alike.
  2. Share you list with your partner.  List on your white board the ways you both agree on.
  3. Connect with another set of partners and share your two lists.  List on one of the white boards all of the ways the four of you agree.
  4. Let’s share our combines lists, and I’ll chart the responses.
  5. Are there any items anyone disagrees with?  Are there ideas anyone wants to add?

Students have had a chance to clarify their thinking, hear others’ thoughts and see a compiled list of ideas.  These multiple experiences will help students internalize the concept being studied.

Here’s another version of think-pair-share:

  1. Each student has an assignment with multiple items to address: math problems, complex and compound sentences to correctly punctuate, places to locate on a map, etc.
  2. Students are paired up.
  3. They work on items 1-3 individually.
  4. They compare answers.  If the answers agree, they move on to items 4-6 and stop and compare work once again.
  5. If answers do not agree, they stop and review their work together by checking examples and rules. Together, they figure out  the correct answer. Then they go on with next set of items.

We know that certain instructional strategies are effective in helping students internalize and master information and processes.  Think-pair-share is one of these approaches. When teams collaborate by using trusted instructional practices across the curriculum their students will benefit from this good teaching.  Teachers also benefit because they can add to their instructional repertoire with the help of their trusted teammates.

Here are additional resources for Think-Pair-Share:

  1. Reading Quest
  2. Instructional Strategies Online
  3. Visible Thinking
  4. Reading Rockets
  5. Video: Think-Pair-Share hand signals
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