Think-Pair-Share Variations

Learning is a collaborative venture. The more we can provide opportunities for our students to think, collaborate and learn from each other – the more we are preparing them for their futures!

Do you use the strategy Think-Pair-Share in your classroom? The Think-Pair-Share strategy is a three-step collaborative learning structure developed by Dr. Frank Lyman in 1981.  It is a relatively low-risk and is ideally suited for instructors and students who are new to collaborative learning. Each component is equally important in the process and shouldn’t be short-changed.

The General Strategy: Think-Pair-Share

  • Teacher asks a question or provides a prompt.
  • Students are given time to THINK about their responses.
  • Students PAIR up and discuss their responses.
  • Student pairs SHARE their ideas with a larger group.

Do you want to spice it up with additional variations?

The strategy Think-Pair-Share, along with a variety of twists, is a versatile strategy that can be used before, during or after a reading, viewing or listening activity. It incorporates elements of strategies that are known to increase learning (summarizing, comparing/contrasting, restating an idea, collaboration, think time, and using different learning modalities).

Fran McVeigh challenged me in my last blog post, Check for Understanding, to think in terms of no-tech and tech variations. I have included some tech variations at the end of this blog. I would love to hear other ideas in the comment section!


Think-Pair-Share (Listen) – When student are sharing ideas with their partner remind them to listen to their partner’s ideas. When groups are asked to share, students share the idea of their partner – not their own.

Think-Pair-Square – Students share with two other students after they have completed Think-Pair-Share (4-square).

Think-Pair-Pod-Share – A “Pod” is a sharing with a small group (a table group) – prior to sharing with the whole group. Students first share with a partner. Then bring all thoughts together as a table (pod) prior to sharing out with whole group.

Think-Write/Draw-Share –  Students write or draw their own ideas before they pair up to discuss them with a partner. This allows students to more fully develop their own ideas before sharing.

Think-Pair-Share (reading strategies) – During “think” part students are asked to think in terms of summarizing, questioning, predicting, visualizing.

  • Once students understand all four of these areas, groups can be asked to use a variety in a single “think-pair-share”. (One (or more) groups summarize, one (or more) groups visualize, etc…)

Think-Pair-Share (various perspectives) – After posing a question, ask pairs to “think” in terms of a different perspective.

  • A character in a story, a career, a historical figure. Etc…

Formulate-Share-Listen-Create –

  • Formulate your answer to the question individually.
  • Share your answer with your partner.
  • Listen carefully to your partner’s answer. Note similarities and differences in your answers.
  • Create a new answer that incorporates the best of the ideas.
  • Be prepared to present your answer if called upon.

Mix-Pair-Share –

  • Students silently mix around the room. NO TALKING!
  • Teacher calls “pair.”
  • Students pair up with the person closest to them and shake hands.
  • Students who haven’t found a partner raise their hand to find each other.
  • Teacher asks a question and gives think time.
  • Students share with their partner per teacher instructions.


Think-Tweet-Share – Students think of response and then generate a Tweet, or 140 character representation of a Tweet.

  • At the time of the first posting of this blog I suggested the tech tool Today’s Meet. Unfortunately that is no longer available. Check here for a few backchannel alternatives.

Think-Text-Share – If students are allowed to use cell phones in class, rather than verbally pairing their ideas they could text each other. Then share with full group.

Think-Pair-Wordle-Share – Teacher posses a question such as what are all the words you can think of to describe _____________. (character in book, historical figure, etc…) Students think individually, then share ideas with partner to develop one Wordle between the two of them. Then share with group.


  • Student begins by thinking of blog post ideas
  • Student creates his/her own post
  • Reader responds

The post becomes the “pair” on a much larger scale. Another aspect of the “pair” is that a blog post is meant to be read by another person. The author’s  ideas are shared through the post. When the reader responds, this is yet another venue for sharing understanding with the writer.

The above has served as some food for thought. I would love to hear from you if you try any of these variations in your classroom. Do you have other ideas to share with the global community? When our ideas come together, we all become stronger. Our students benefit greatly from our online THINKING, PAIRING and SHARING!


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