We try out “think-pair-share”

After a meeting of Sunday school teachers last night, Heather said to me, “You didn’t have the kids act out the story during Sunday school on Sunday, did you?”

“No, we didn’t,” I said, curious to know how she had figured it out.

“I knew it,” she said. “When I asked the kids what they had done in Sunday school, they said, ‘I dunno.’ I asked if they had heard about Joseph, and they didn’t remember. So I knew you hadn’t acted the story out.”

Because we had twenty children in one group, Joe and I had opted not to have the children act out the story. Instead, Joe had introduced one of his favorite pedagogical methods, think-pair-share. We asked a seventh grader to aloud the story of how Joseph’s brothers encountered him once again as a powerful official in Egypt. Then Joe asked the children think about a specific question about the story, pair up with another child, and share what they had been thinking about. After giving time for the pairs of children to share with each other, we called the children back to a large group discussion.

Think-pair-share is a well-known way to teach a larger group such that kids get to thinking more deeply about a given topic. But this was the first time we had used think-pari-share in our Sunday school, and I noticed that several of the children on Sunday were uncertain about how it worked (even if they had encountered it in their week-day schools). They were uncertain when Joe asked them to pair up, and several of them kept looking to Joe and me for guidance. Several of the pairs were also uncertain how to share. Joe provided direct guidance to several pairs, while I tried to model good sharing by sitting at the front of the class and sharing with the seventh grader who had read the story.

By the time we had worked through think-pair-share, we were short on time, and decided not to act out the story, as we usually do. In the short run, the children did not get as much out of this story as we might have hoped. But in the long run, Joe introduced them to a new technique for processing a story or other content; next time we use think-pair-share, they will find it easier, and get more out of it.

As a teacher, I’m looking forward to using think-pair-share again in the near future. When you only have 45 or 50 minutes to get across the week’s lesson, you want to use pedagogical techniques that help children fix the content of the lesson in their memories; when the content is fixed in their memories, they are more likely to talk with their parents about the content after the lesson, thus further enriching their learning. Acting a story out helps fix a story in children’s memories, but so does a good rich discussion. And think-pair-share has the potential to engender good rich discussions.

Queries for the reader: Thinking back to the last time you introduced a new teaching technique or pedagogical approach to your group, what happened? Do you find it takes time for learners to get used to new pedagogical techniques?

One thought on “We try out “think-pair-share””

  1. Train them how to use it. Painfully. That’s why I hate the first weeks of school, but it pays off in the long run. :-) I teach them by talking it through with them. Depending on the age, I do examples with them or brainstorm what it would look like to think, pair, and then share. We set guidelines together for each stage. The key with any teaching strategy is teaching the students how you expect it to look.

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