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Getting all your students involved

Have you found that some of your students dominate the conversation when questions are posed to the class, while others stay silent? Or is your class generally very quiet, when you try to engage them by asking questions?

As a teacher, you want to create a class environment where all students can participate and feel engaged. Think-Pair-Share is one easy way to create short, interactive class experiences that include everyone — and don’t take much time.


Here's how:

  • Step 1: Take a break from your lecture or demo to pose a question to the class.

SAMPLE PROMPT: What do you think were the two most important concepts I just covered about ___?

  • Step 2: Ask each student to jot down a few notes in response to your question.

SAMPLE PROMPT: Take two minutes to make a few notes for yourself.

  • Step 3: Direct students to discuss their response to the question with the person sitting next to them.

SAMPLE PROMPT: Turn to the person next to you and compare your responses. Did you both come up with the same opinions, or if were they different? I will give you two minutes.

  • Step 4: After giving them a few minutes to collaborate on their answer, call on a couple of pairs to share their answers/opinions/findings with the class.

It is important that you control who gets to answer the question, so that the more talkative students don’t continue to dominate. This also gives you the opportunity to call on pairs that may tend to be quieter. It also gives you the opportunity to check the level of understanding in the moment and to answer any questions that have arisen.


  • Avoid yes/no questions.
  • Use questions that encourage students to reiterate material introduced, analyze, form an opinion, compare/contrast, speak to their experience, etc. For example:
    • What are the 2-3 most important points that you came away with?
    • What are the first three steps in starting effectively?
    • Which do you think is better, ___ or ___? Why?
    • Why is this information important to know?
    • What are three things you should avoid doing?
    • How can you apply this information to your goals?

Why is this strategy useful?

Posing questions like this throughout your lecture or demo will increase the level of engagement of your students — and it doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes at a time. This approach also changes the dynamic in your class away from a “teacher centered model” (in which teacher is doing all of the talking and students are passive) to one in which students are more actively engaged.

Think / Pair / Share also makes it easier for timid students and English-language-learners to participate, because it gives them time to gather their thoughts (and their words) before speaking. And by asking students first to share with a partner, you allow them a chance to practice articulating their ideas before speaking to the entire class.

You will notice that as students talk together in pairs, the overall energy of the class increases, because they are collaborating with one another. This strategy also builds confidence and a sense of social connection, as well as deeper learning.

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