Combining thinking time with paired talk

Choosing the appropriate questioning technique for any given phase of a lesson is an essential classroom skill.  Inviting hands up is an ancient classic, but in most classes only really reaches the same small group of learners.  Targeting a question at a particular pupil can extend your reach but may put learners on the spot, when the aim is to create a safe space to share thoughts.

Combining thinking time with paired talk is a great alternative when asking 'bigger' open questions or when generating ideas.  It is of little value for closed questions.

Talk partners / paired talk are commonplace but this variant works in three distinct stages.

Thinking time: Learners are posed a question and asked to think of and perhaps jot down an individual response. There is no paired talk at this stage. They are given an appropriate amount of time to do this, depending on age, the question and your expected response.
Partner Talk: Learners are invited to share their responses with a partner.
Group Sharing: Pairs are asked for their joint response (possibly using the no hands rule - if so flag up at the start that you will be "picking on" random pairs to feedback).

Each stage is vital and here's why: if you skip Thinking time and go straight to Partner Talk then one of the pair of learners may dominate the other and the other may happily or unhappily sit back and disengage.  If you skip Partner Talk, less confident learners do not get a chance to rehearse the articulation of their ideas to just one other learner before sharing with the class, which builds confidence.  And if you skip Group Sharing, well, you don't get any answers!

In a moment I'm going to select someone to answer this question: "How many different uses can you think of for this piece of insulating material?".
Learners allowed 2 minutes on their own to jot down answers to the question in the back of their books.
"OK, talk to the person next to you about your ideas and be ready to share them with the class." 
Learners given 2 minutes to discuss in pairs, teacher eavesdrops for particularly interesting ideas.
"OK, Harry and Seema, what ideas did you come up with?"
"Very interesting.  Claire and Tyler, what ideas did you consider?"
"Thank you - I'd not thought of that before.  Jackie and Karen?"


  1. Jessica12:36

    Year 1/2 Poetry
    Think, Pair, Share
    1 minutes to prepare

    I used this during a poetry lesson. We were thinking about circular and spherical things to use in our poem about the sun. We thought of 2 as a group, then I gave the children 1 minute to write on their boards all of the other things they could think of. I then allowed 1 more minute for the children to discuss their findings with a partner. Finally, we heard ideas from the whole class and created a mind map.

    I used this in pairs on the carpet.

    The children were clearly engaged when writing down their own ideas, and loved discussing their ideas with a partner. Feedback had to be quite speedy, as they were becoming restless.

    The activity was fine for the wide range of abilities in my class, although my TA and I worked with a few children who struggle with writing.

    Tip: Make it quick!

    Pupil engagement 3
    Pupil enjoyment 3
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives 3
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered 3
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique 3

  2. Jenny12:38

    Think, pair, share

    I have used this now across subjects. I used to use discussion partners but this allows the children to think first.

    I used this throughout the lesson, warm ups, intros, group work and plenaries.

    The learners still at first launched straight into talking to the person next to them, so it took a little whole to break that habit but now the children are taking time to think first.

    It has given me the opportunity to target children who look bemused when they are thinking through themselves first and give further support so they take their ideas to their partner not just taking on the ideas of their partner.

    Pupil engagement 4
    Enjoyment 3
    Meeting learning objectives 4
    Suitability of tool 4
    My enjoyment 4

  3. Olivia and Ellie12:40

    Tool used: Think pair share
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes): 0 minutes
    Class: year 5/6 and year 6
    Used everyday

    Used across curriculum to highlight importance of individual thinking time before discussion with peers, as starter and throughout lessons.

    Such a simple idea but so effective really allows individual to come up with their own ideas and reasoning

    Very valuable for less confident and less able children.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [ 4]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [4 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much we enjoy using this technique [4 ]

  4. Becky, Anna and Terresa12:41

    Class – Year 3/4
    Date – many times
    Period - Literacy

    We have used this tool several times in our classrooms, for science, literacy and RE.

    The strategy was used as an introduction to the main activity, in order to generate ideas for a further activity.

    Tip: Discuss rules of engagement – listen to each other, make eye contact.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [ 4]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [ 4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [3 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

  5. Matthew12:44

    Think, pair, share in year 3 literacy
    Time taken to prepare - no time at all.

    I used this during a literacy lesson on non-fiction text. The children were designing their own leaflet about healthy teeth. In the lesson the children were expected to think of suitable headings to go into their leaflet. The children were asked to independently THINK for 1 min and write down heading ideas on a whiteboard. The children were then asked to PAIR up with a partner and try to think of more ideas for suitable headings. Next the children were asked to SHARE their ideas as a group of four and write down four or more good headings onto a brainstorm. The groups were then encouraged to SHOW OFF (I added an extra element to the think, pair, share) their ideas to the rest of the class.

    I used this independently, in pairs, in groups and as a class.

    The children were clearly engaged and produced some excellent heading ideas for their work.

    The activity worked well even with lower attaining pupils. Support was given to LA children when it came to writing ideas down.

    Make it defined steps. Reinforce to the children how they should be working at each stage of the think, pair, share. e.g. THINK - "You are thinking on your own I want you to be completely silent when you do this."

    Pupil engagement 4
    Pupil enjoyment 3
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives 5
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered 4
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique 4

  6. Miss Hussain12:45

    Class - Year 2
    Tool used – think pair share
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) - 10

    I used this tool during a numeracy lesson. The children were asked to think about what adding and taking away meant and then shared this in their pair; where they would then feedback to the class.

    This activity was used as a starter and enabled the children to share their ideas.

    This is a very effective tool and the children enjoyed this immensely.

    Pupil engagement [4]
    Pupil enjoyment [4 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

  7. Julie12:48

    Think Pair Share in Reception class
    Tool used - Think Pair Share
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) - 5 mins
    Year group - Reception
    Subject and topic - CLLD

    I used 'interesting pictures' and displayed one per session on the Interactive Whiteboard. For example, a boat sitting in the middle of a calm sea with clear blue sky; a 'Star Wars' type space ship; a gloomy looking forest; large dinosaur type prints in the sand.

    The children were asked to just look at the picture for a minute or so and think about it. Initially I wondered out loud "Where might this be?", "Who might be there?" "Where are they going?" etc to give the children an idea to base their thoughts on. Then they shared their ideas with their talking partner for a couple of minutes. Myself and the LSA based ourselves with key children who struggle with language. Finally, each pair shared their ideas with the whole class.

    The ideas they generate, even from the start, were very exciting. They were focussed and relevant to the picture. For example, for the boat picture they thought people had gone fishing for their tea; that a storm might come; that the boat's engine had broken; that they were on their way to a beach. I scribed some key words from their ideas on the whiteboard and we ended up verbally creating a story incorporating their ideas.

    All children were engaged throughout.

    I found this a useful session and would probably use it once a week to particularly develop speaking and listening skills; develop vocabulary and language. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and you could build a folder of interesting pictures (Google images is great for this) that you can dip into anytime.

    Overall I would score each aspect at 4.

  8. Ms Makepeace & Mr Rentall12:50

    Year group – Year 1/ Year 2
    Subject and topic – English

    We have adapted partner talking by allowing the children think time before partner share and then sharing with the class in English in order to develop story ideas.

    The children really appreciated the extra time to think, this was evident in their ideas suggestions.

    The activity provided learners who need more ‘thinking time’ the opportunity to consider the questions and develop thinking/ ideas before having to share with a partner.

    It is very effective and can support the children to organise their thoughts.

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(Please post when you have tried this particular tool - thanks!)
How did you adapt this tool for your classroom?
What was the response from your learners?
What advice would you give other teachers about this tool?