Monday, April 20, 2009

Think-Pair-Share

In the past, I've set professional goals around group work. I've done this because it can be so frustrating to have group work that does not work well. I've tried all sorts of configurations and jigsaws and evidence sheets, but none has worked so well as the Think-Pair-Share. I like this model because it allows for individual work, paired work, and then whole group work or report-out. The structure starts small and branched out as students move to the next level and better understand what they're doing. This way, the teacher can clarify any confusions students may have before they move to their pairs and before the pairs are expected to report out to the larger group.

For example, I really wanted my juniors and seniors to understand the various types of comedy that William Shakespeare uses in his comedy. I knew that I had some students who'd read more Shakespearean comedy with me than others, but as we moved into Twelfth Night (a mega comedy), I wanted all of us to be on more equal footing and to have some baseline vocabulary from which to talk about comedy. Because there are so many types of comedy and comedic devices in the play, I did not want every student to be responsible for gathering information about all of the types. Also, I knew that I needed to differentiate for my students because they are heterogeneous and need a variety of sources in their inquiry.

I used this same structure with juniors and seniors as a pre-reading activity for Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Here, I wanted students to think about the underlying themes contained within the play before they had a chance to meet the characters and judge them for their actions, beliefs, and decisions. In this activity, student pairs received a question and had a chance to decide what they believed in reference to that question. I had students report out for one another rather than for themselves so that they'd really have to listen to what their partner said. I also wanted to curtail some of our more eloquent and wordy class members, as they have a way of monopolizing class time! This activity worked so well that we had a heated discussion and students referred to their own beliefs as the play progressed.

Think Pair Share is a wonderful tool for differentiation. It allows the teacher to seamlessly break students into groups and assign readings with similar content but at a variety of reading levels. In this method, no one student will be isolated with a topic that is "less than" what others are working on; it allows the teacher to reach every student on his or her level.

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