Activity Corner: Think/Pair/Share

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)

The Think/Pair/Share is an extremely low-prep activity that can help even the driest of lectures become more interactive and student-centered.

The teacher poses a question and gives students a quiet minute or two to think about the question. Then the teacher asks students to turn to a partner and discuss the question. Finally, answers are shared with the whole class.

It can be used to introduce a topic, check for understanding after information is given, or generate creative answers. It can take just five minutes with closed-ended questions and transition back to lecture or a new activity, or lead into deep discussion time. Its flexibility and ease of implementation make it hard to teach without!


  • Pose a question. Write it down where everyone can see it and refer back to it. Note that open-ended questions will be discussed for longer.
  • Ask students to think for a minute or two about the question. You can ask them to write down their ideas, or not to.
  • After that time is up, ask students to turn to a partner and discuss the question.
  • After that time is up, ask students to volunteer their answers for the whole group. They can share out loud, by writing on the board, etc.


In an academic reading class, I used Think-Pair-Share as a pre-reading activity for “Making Heaven” in Tana Reiff’s Hopes and Dreams 2 series. This is a short novel about Korean immigrants in New York City, and we read it together as a class.

I told the class we would be reading a book about new immigrants in New York City. I told them that it was Think/Pair/Share time and wrote the question on the board, “Why is it hard to be a new immigrant in the USA?” I gave them two minutes to write down as many ideas as they could.

Two minutes later, I asked them to work in pairs and compare their lists of challenges for new immigrants. I gave them five minutes to see if they could think of more together. I expected and hoped that they might also discuss their own experiences.

Five minutes later, I asked each pair to write a few of their ideas on the board. We talked about these ideas as a class.

From this activity, I introduced the book more, including its setting in history, and we discussed what challenges this specific fictional family might have faced back then: what hasn’t changed much, and what has?

And from here, we began reading the book to find out if our predictions turned out to be correct. We returned to this discussion once or twice over the course of reading the novel.

You’re reading Activity Corner: Think/Pair/Share, originally posted at

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