Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

Stop Teaching! Let Kids Teach Themselves – Third in the “Two-Word” Series

By Bill Page

I just Googled Pair-share and got 30 million hits.  So take a look at what educators are saying. Because for students, there is no pressure to perform in front of others, and it is individual, making it ideal for at-risk students.  It is a meaningful activity for most students, probably every student. I pick the kids who need special help to work with me as “my partners” while others are pairing.

Reasons for the success and effectiveness of the pair-share strategy:

  • It is a good way to review a lesson, concept, unit, or test with another person.
  • It lets kids talk, gives responsibility for thinking, and involves every kid immediately.
  • It is good for practice—both partners are 100% active, there is no passivity or avoidance.
  • It is great for rote learning because it uses speaking, recalling, and seeing modalities.
  • It lets the receiver use listening, thinking, and reflection; then the activities are reversed.
  • It gives everyone in class a chance to talk, participate, and be actively involved.
  • It is good for anticipatory set and for reflection and discussion at points along the way.
  • It is excellent for reviewing notes, data, memorable points, and sharing class notes.
  • It is an ideal way to review lessons, improve study notes, and study for tests.
  • It frees the teacher to work with those who really need help, while the rest are engaged in a worthwhile learning activity.
  • It allows for students to check and prepare their knowledge or exchange questions and answers so they will be able to respond if called on.
  • It permits students to be paired even while grouped in other small group activities or class organizations and groupings.
  • It provides an anticipatory set for discussion before a lesson and can allow individual thought and preparedness for following the lesson and for further discussion.

Pair-Share Strategy Procedures

There are five procedures I use that helps make the pairing of students more effective:

(1) Be sure students understand the reason for pairing.  They will welcome and use the concept if they see its value.  If some students “mess around” or abuse pair-share time, it’s usually because they don’t understand or accept its purpose; they need teacher help to see its value.

(2) Be sure the pairing is understood to be reciprocal; one student willingly uses his/her time to help the partner, who will return the favor. And the pairing should be voluntary; it is difficult to work with someone you like, much less someone you don’t like.

(3) I choose the kids who don’t get or accept the goals as my partners during the pair-share time.  I might also give my partners special assignments more appropriate than the ones for other pairs.

(4) The “tutee” is always in charge of the help offered.  As one student tutors the other, the one being helped determines the manner, scope, and duration of the help. Help has to make sense and be helpful to the recipient of the “teaching.”

(5) It won’t work–at least not for everyone—expect problems.  Some teachers give up on pairing because of  one or two students. But pair-share is an excellent way to get the class learning. Teachers need tofind ways for the few who need something else, when it’s not working.

Improving the Effectiveness or the Pair-Share Idea

Among some of the steps for extending the use and value of the pairing are these:

Let the kids come up with some of the rules or changes in procedures such as starting and stopping, collaborating, agreeing, taking turns, timing, asking for help, and settling disagreements or difficulties as an integral part of the sharing strategy, for instance:

  • Use collaboration to get agreed on reactions or a single outcome of the sharing
  • Require written responses from the pair with each writing his/her own comments
  • Methods for comparing one pair’s ideas with other pairs
  • Determine ways of communicating with the other pairs when necessary
  • Use a second level of sharing using three or four in the discussion group
  • Work on group dynamic techniques for extending pairs into larger groups
  • Improve interpersonal skills, discussion, and relating techniques
  • Check for understanding of newly introduced material
  • After explanation and examples are offered, students develop their own
  • Provide a break from lecture and intensive presentations
  • Introduce a new units or concepts, or procedures
  • Permit time for formulation of answers in question-answer session
  • Allow for initial activity in brainstorming sessions or class problem solving

More Ideas and Uses

Pair-Share is an excellent way to show students the value of cooperative learning, to lead into small group activities, partner projects, and to build a classroom community concept. The pairing can be appropriate in all subject areas. Perhaps the best contribution of kids sharing thoughts and ideas is the level of involvement it engenders; it would be difficult to leave someone out of a pair and even the most shy, insecure student can engaged with a person of his own choosing.


Don’t over-organize the pair-share ideas and procedures.  Students can use the concept as a means of learning and using the concept.  Kids need to know the rationale, potential, and goals.  Once kids become accustomed to the benefits of sharing and interacting, they rely on it.  Two heads are always better than one in learning—as long as they are both headed in the same direction.  That’s the part that needs practice and commitment.

With joy in sharing,

Review Bill Page’s Two-Word Teaching Strategy Articles in Back Issues:

         January Gazette, “Shut-Up and Teach,” Two-Word Strategy: Student Dialogue

                Feb Gazette “So Shush Up Again, Kids Need Time to Think,” two-words: Wait-Time

March Gazette  “Quit Teaching, Kids Can Do That Themselves,” Two-Words: Pair-Share



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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 and is filed under *ISSUES, Bill Page, March 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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