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Think-Pair-Share. A reading comprehension strategy that works wonders for reading.

The strategy of Think-Pair-Share is an effective reading exerciseWhat is it? Think-Pair-Share is an instructional strategy  (Lyman 1981) designed to provide students the time to independently and cooperatively process an idea or concept, make a prediction, or answer a question.  In a nutshell, the teacher poses a question or problem and students think about their answer independently; next, students are paired with another student for discussion. The teacher then collects valuable feedback from individual impressions and student interactions.

The benefits are many: It’s excellent for differentiating student responses, developing oral communication skills, and encouraging individual thinking. Think-Pair-Share for reading encourages students to engage with text, which aids comprehension tremendously at any grade level. We like it because it helps the youngest of students find their “voice” and trains them to defend their interpretation of text. That’s leadership in the making.

Why use it? 
Instead of a basic recitation method for students to respond to the teacher's questions, Think-Pair-Share encourages a high level of student interaction and response. Each student is required to have an answer, discuss the question, and formulate a response. Not just the more eager or capable students in the classroom. Even if the student isn't asked to share with the larger group, he has already processed with a partner, which increases his engagement with the group. 

What’s more, students are given time to discuss their ideas with a partner, which will lead to deeper comprehension. Research indicates that students reach a more complex level of understanding and knowledge when they participate in meaningful peer discussions. Discussion of text helps students make sense of their ideas and even learn to adapt to different perspectives as they integrate their own ideas with others.

How to do it:

  1. As part of a class discussion, pose a question to students. Make sure that they know you are planning to use the Think-Pair-Share strategy so they are prepared to share with another student.
  2. Provide students with at least 10-15 seconds to think about the question and formulate a partner response.
  3. Ask students to pair with another student to discuss their answers and thoughts.
  4. Once the partner discussions are complete, select students to share their thoughts and ideas with the class. (It’s best to draw names at random.)

Helpful hints:

  • Allow enough thinking time. The crux of this strategy is that students are given ample time to think about their own answers before being expected to share with a partner.  Rushing the first step will reduce the effectiveness of partner discussions.
  • Assign partners with care. Especially when first using the strategy it’s probably best to assign partners to students.  This will help to ensure each student is participating in a productive partner discussion. As students become more familiar with the strategy you may allow them to choose partners.
  • Always monitor. The Think-Pair-Share instructional strategy's true benefit is linked to the effectiveness of the students' discussion.  As a teacher it is imperative for you to monitor the partner discussion time to ensure that students remain on task. It also is important for you to head off any misconceptions that could derail their comprehension.

All cooperative learning activities take a little forethought and planning, but once you have your strategy in place, it is quite flexible, and activities may be drawn out over several days or even weeks. There is some advantage to revisiting a reading lesson over time, especially for struggling readers.

At a minimum, have fun with this exercise. We guarantee your students will.

Ever wonder what more you could be doing to boost comprehension in your classroom? Download our best practices guide, and try something new, today.







There are many excellent books that are perfect for getting the conversation going with Think-Pair-Share at the elementary level. Our recommendations are (Grades K-3), “A Bad Case of Stripes,” by David Shannon, (Grades K-6 ) “Weslandia,” by Paul Fleischman and (Grades 2-6)“The Araboolies of Liberty Street,” by Sam Swope. –Judy Gottlieb, Mentor, Marygrove MAT.
Posted @ Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:10 PM by -Judy Gottlieb, Marygrove MAT Mentor
Love this idea. Would it be better to pair students with similar reading levels?
Posted @ Sunday, April 15, 2012 4:18 PM by LionScience
Students of the same reading levels do not always have to be paired. Learners of different levels can be partnered for a variety of reasons, with great results. Due to their differences, they will provide a broader range of perspectives as they "see" things from different "angles." Also, the students will have a greater opportunity to reinforce learning as they act in a coaching role to explain their different perspectives. That’s a win/win!
Posted @ Monday, April 16, 2012 11:27 AM by Judy Gottlieb
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