Think, Pair, Share

Active Listening
Think, Pair, Share
Rally Table
Group Spelling
Numbered Heads

Think, Pair, Share

Think, Pair, Share is a structure first developed by Professor Frank Lyman at the University of Maryland in 1981 and adopted by many writers in the field of co-operative learning since then. It introduces into the peer interaction element of co-operative learning the idea of ‘wait or think’ time, which has been demonstrated to be a powerful factor in improving student responses to questions.

It is a simple strategy, effective from early childhood through all subsequent phases of education to tertiary and beyond. It is a very versatile structure, which has been adapted and used, in an endless number of ways. This is one of the foundation stones for the development of the ‘co-operative classroom.’


Processing information, communication, developing thinking.


Sharing information, listening, asking questions, summarising others’ ideas, paraphrasing.


  1. Teacher poses a problem or asks an open-ended question to which there may be a variety of answers.
  2. Teacher gives the students ‘think time’ and directs them to think about the question.
  3. Following the ‘think time’ students turn to face their Learning Partner and work together, sharing ideas, discussing, clarifying and challenging.
  4. The pair then share their ideas with another pair, or with the whole class. It is important that students need to be able to share their partner’s ideas as well as their own.


Positive interdependence

The students are able to learn from each other

Individual accountability

Students are accountable to each other for sharing ideas. The student may also be required to share their partner’s ideas to another pair or whole group.

Equal participation

Each student within the group has an equal opportunity to share. It is possible that one student may try to dominate. The teacher can check this does not happen.

Simultaneous interaction

High degrees of interaction. At any one moment all of the students will be actively engaged in purposeful speaking and listening. Compare this with the usual practice of teacher questioning where only one or two students would be actively engaged.


  • Before a lesson or topic to orient the class (previous knowledge etc).
  • During teacher modeling or explanation.
  • Any time, to check understanding of material.
  • At the end of a teacher explanation, demonstration etc, to enable students to cognitively process the material.
  • To break up a long period of sustained activity.
  • Whenever it is helpful to share ideas.
  • For clarification of instructions, rules of a game, homework etc.
  • For the beginning of a plenary session.


Think, Pair, Share can be used in all curriculum areas and is limited only by the creativity of the teacher. This structure along with Numbered Heads Together is an excellent substitute for the normally competitive structures in a question and answer session.


This is an essential structure to introduce early in the process of establishing the ‘co-operative classroom.’ It ensures a high level of engagement (it is hard to be left out of a pair!) and is more secure than a large group.

Think, Pair, Share has many advantages over the traditional questioning structure. The ‘Think Time’ incorporates the important concept of ‘wait time’. It allows all children to develop answers. Longer and more elaborate answers can be given. Answers will have reasons and justifications because they have been thought about and discussed. Students are more willing to take risks and suggest ideas because they have already ‘tested’ them with their partner.

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