Classroom Management, Pedagogy

Think – Pair – Share… How to hold your students accountable!

If you have ever tried the Think-Pair-Share strategy in your class, then you know it can be either great… or not so great.

Been there, done that.

I first started using this technique with second graders a few years back, and the first few times were chaotic to say the least. As soon as I said “think” twenty-something mouths all started blabbering at the same time. No one took turns, or listened, or could share anything that was discussed.

Then it dawned on me that this was a procedure, and like all successful procedures, the steps have to be intentionally taught.


So, let’s start with “think”. 

Students need to be taught that thinking doesn’t mean to immediately raise your hand and/or start talking. They need to understand that thinking is a quiet and meaningful process. The best way to get them there is to practice the thinking skill.

Practice thinking?

Yes, indeed!

Explain that when you ask a “What or how do you think…..?” type question, students need to not say anything and they need to think about it. They can’t speak until they are given instructions to do so (you may want to give them about 15 seconds). Then call on students to share out to the class what their thoughts were regarding the question. Take turns, raise hands.

But this sounds like something they should be doing already, right?

Well, don’t assume that they know how to do raise hands and take turns.


Practice this first step until they have it, and I mean really have it down. Model with students or have other students model for their classmates. It may take several days. Continue doing it until everyone (and I mean everyone) is consistently handling this step successfully. (Some students may not be comfortable sharing yet, and that’s okay… don’t push them.) But, they all need to adhere to quietly using think time for thinking.

Now for “pair”.

However you have your kiddos grouped, it’s important that they actively listen to their partner/s. This in itself should be a “What does active listening look like?” lesson and anchor chart.

  1. Students need to make eye contact and not speak while their partner is speaking.
  2. After the speaker speaks, the listener repeats to their partner what they just heard. Or, they can ask clarifying questions
  3. Switch and repeat.

I suggest you spend plenty of time on this step and not move on until everyone is familiar with the process. I also highly suggest that you model this with another student for your class to observe. You may have to create fun ways  for students to determine who speaks first (rock, paper, scissors; who has the closest birthday, etc…).

Finally… the “share”.

Here’s where the accountability comes in. Students have to share with the class what their partner said. The first few times, many of them aren’t going to know, and that’s because… they weren’t really listening. Listening is definitely a skill that has to be mastered, because we all know that hearing and listening are not the same thing. I like to hold a clipboard and pretend to make a check mark or something when students can’t share what their partner says. I don’t say anything… I just “make” a check. (I’m sneaky that way.) This little trick works for some kids, but not all…

So what can you do for the rest of the kids that may have difficulty remembering what their partner said?

Give them a little support!

I like to provide little Think-Pair-Share note-taking slips with simple sentence frames on them. (Click on the link for a copy!)

This little jewel will help keep your students on task, and guide them when it’s their turn to listen and when they are called on to share with the rest of the class. I require them to say everything that is written on the slip, beginning with introducing their partner. They love doing this because not only are they showing that they are actively listening and communicating, but they feel important and successful! You can even collect them after the activity to monitor that students are participating, because chances are you may not get to hear everyone share, or you may still have a few little peeps that are still shy.

What I love most about the Think – Pair – Share strategy is that it can be used in any subject area, and it’s a wonderful way to get your kids listening and communicating in a courteous and respectful manner.

If you are interested in other supports for helping students develop communication skills be sure to check out my Accountable Talk products on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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