Fine tuning think-pair-share

Think-pair-share is one of my favorite active learning activities. It is easy, quick and can give you a good idea of what your students are thinking. As an instructor, you can use think-pair-share to check on your student’s ability to use the concepts you are teaching and break up a lecture to regain student attention. Students can check their understanding and get immediate feedback. All of this can be done relatively quickly. Are you getting the most out of your think-pair-share? Here is a checklist:


  • Write the question prompt on thePeople writing notes in a classroom board or project it so that students can refer to it (and get started more quickly).
  • Enforce the quiet time (the initial “think” part) in order to give students time to gather their thoughts before anyone is talking. This step helps include introverts. Suggest that students write their ideas down before talking, to ensure that students are initially thinking to themselves.


  • Two people talkingWhen you direct students to “pair”, remind them that they will be called upon to share their pair’s ideas.
  • Enforce pairing by circulating among the students and encouraging individual students to join each other. Have students work in groups of three, if necessary.
  • Listen to student conversations as you walk through the room. Getting a preview will help you decide how to approach student comments.
  • (Optional) While listening and pairing students, determine who you will call on, and perhaps give them a “heads up” and check that you are pronouncing their names correctly.


  • Charlotte talking, two others listeningRegain quiet in the room so everyone can hear. Often, raising a hand and instructing students to finish their sentence and then raise their hands works nicely to quiet a room relatively quickly.
  • Call on several students to speak for their pair. Calling on students reinforces that you want to hear from everyone, not just the confident students, and communicates that they need to be prepared.
  • Call on several different groups.
  • If you’ve gotten similar answers after calling on several student pairs, ask if anyone came up with anything different. At this point, you can ask for volunteers.
  • Do not indicate a correct answer at this point (if there is one).
  • Once you feel that you have a good sense of what most of your students think, you can address misconceptions that have come up. Thank your students for sharing them, and reinforce that you want to hear from all students.

For more ideas for easy active learning techniques or to talk about your teaching, please contact us at