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In this episode, Garvey describes an active learning technique you can set up quickly and get all your students involved in immediately.
Hello, good listener, and thank you for coming to this edition of Teaching & Learning Matters. My name is Dr. Garvey Pyke, and for the next three minutes, I am going to show you how to set up a very quick and easy active learning technique called “Think-Write-Pair-Share.” It takes little time to set up and will get all students involved immediately. If you want, you will be able to use this technique in your very next class.
I have been using Think-Write-Pair-Share for probably a decade now, but I had no idea who first came up with the idea. That is how many of our teaching techniques tend to go. Sure, Socrates is famous enough that we remember the Socratic method, but most other methods are practically considered anonymous through popular use.
That being said, I do want to give credit where credit is due: it was F. T. Lyman in 1981 who created Think-Pair-Share, and there have been many variations since. In fact, the one I am discussing today is my favorite variant and the one I rely on most: Think-Write-Pair-Share.
First, let’s examine the procedure itself. Here is how it goes:
Begin by giving your students a question, problem, concept, idea, et cetera. Tell the students to think about the problem and write down an answer. (i.e., this is the Think-Write portion). Give them enough time to do this, based on the complexity of the question you have posed.
Next, ask the students to pair with a partner to share and discuss what they have written (i.e., the Pair-Share portion of the exercise). Usually this is someone seated nearby or perhaps a cooperative teammate. Or you can have them get up and walk across the room to partner with someone they have never spoken to before. Give the students enough time to share their answers, perhaps discussing such things as why they believe their answer is correct, how they arrived at that answer, etc.
Finally, you can then ask a few students to share their own answers, their partner’s answers, or their group’s discussion with the whole class. This may lead to larger class discussion and interesting insights.
Like I said, it is simple to set up to get going right away. Your students will have a lot of interaction with each other, which is one of the principles of student success in the college classroom. It will also give you a chance to circulate around the room and listen and give feedback with smaller groups.
You can do this at any point during a class session. You can start off a class by asking about a difficult concept or maybe something from their reading. You can end class the same way. Or ask what they are still unclear about. Another use is to find a natural stopping point partway through a lecture to do the Think-Write-Pair-Share. Student attention during a lecture peaks at 10 minutes. Therefore, use Think-Write-Pair-Share to break up a lecture and to get students involved. You could even have them generate questions for class discussion through this method.
Think-Write-Pair-Share is a wonderful active learning technique that gets everyone involved. It costs nothing, has very little setup, and can really energize a class. I hope you try it out in your next class, and see how your students respond.
If you have any questions or want to learn more—or if you want to let me know how well it went when you tried it—come on over to the Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte, and we will talk about this or other strategies that fit your style, your students’ needs, and your subject area.
Thanks for listening, and please tune in next time, where we will discuss another short and simple technique for immediate use in your classroom.
Until then, so long, and remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.
Lyman, F. T. (1981). The responsive classroom discussion: The inclusion of all students. In A. Anderson (Ed.), Mainstreaming Digest (pp. 109-113). College Park: University of Maryland Press
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