Think-Pair-Share

Advanced Study in Teaching and Reading
Wiki Reading Strategy #3

Our third strategy is the Think-Pair-Share (TPS) strategy that is described by Laura Robb (2003), in Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math, and Jeff Zwiers (2008), in Building Academic Language.

Description of Strategy

The Purpose of TPS
Much like other strategies discussed, TPS is a great strategy for teaching students how to slow down their reading and really understand the content. It also is a great strategy for starting discussions about whatever material the students are reading. The goals that can be pursued through the TPS strategy can be varied. The strategy can be used to help students develop prior knowledge, connect to the reading, learn vocabulary, activate prior knowledge, and review what has been read. Furthermore, TPS can provide students with different perspectives from their classmates. Because of the amount of time spent during a TPS session, students are capable of truly critically thinking about the readings with the help of another classmate.

How does TPS work and how can it be used in the Classroom?
TPS is a strategy that can be used in many situations. It can be a quick one to five minute conversation between two students about a chunk of learning or a longer session with more in depth thinking, discussion, and note taking. A teacher might provide a thinking break in a lesson by providing an invitation for paired students to converse with each other. The process first involves a "quiet" time for each student to collect their thoughts and possibly make notes. This thinking time will vary depending upon the content and goals of the teacher and students. Though TPS is usually around five minutes, longer sessions of ten or even twenty minutes can work toward student's understanding of content. The goal of the TPS strategy is for the students to have a genuine discussion about their thoughts and the reading. Thus, students should not simply tell each what they think. They should debate, coach, point out passages, and truly have a conversation about what they are thinking and learning. After the pairs have conversed for the allotted time, they can share with other pairs or with the class as a whole. Because of the flexibility of TPS, it can be used in a variety of ways with a variety of prompts.

Where TPS fits in Robb's Three-Part-Framework
Also because of the flexibility of TPS, it can be used during any stage of learning. It can almost always be useful for students to stop and think about what they are learning. Sharing those thoughts and analyzing them will often be worth the time and effort that the TPS strategy takes. Zwiers claims that TPS is "worth the loudness and time used in class" and it should be used "several times a day," even "during a busy (every) day" (p. 155). Thus the TPS strategy can easily be used before, during, and after learning.

Before Reading:
Students can activate prior knowledge by thinking about the topic and writing notes. They can then share those notes with a partner. Eventually each group could share their findings with the whole class. By doing these multiple "thinks" and "shares," the students gain prior knowledge and can make connections to the content.

During Reading:
With difficult texts, students can monitor their learning by stopping to think about and discuss their reading. By discussing thier reading, students can help each other understand the text and also come up with questions they may have about the text. Furthermore, teachers can use these moments to monitor the learning of their students.

After Reading:
Students can discuss meaning of the text or ask questions about the text. Really, the after reading TPS sessions can be of many different types. The teacher could ask students a specific question or the students could think of questions. Moreover, students can write reflections and discuss their reflections with a partner. There are many possibilities.

Essentially, TPS should be used often in any stage of the learning process. The strategy is a valuable tool for helping students think about the various texts and content they might encounter.

TPS Content Area
Not only is the TPS strategy useful during any stage of learning. It is also useful for any content area. It can be used to help students understand poetry and complicated literature in an E/ LA class. It can help students understand complicated procedures in Math and Science. Students can discuss difficult scenarios about history and government. The possibilites for the TPS strategy are endless.

Essentially, no matter what content the students are learning, the procedure is the same. Students break into pairs, think about the topic, discuss the topic, and then either share with other pairs or share with the class as a whole. In a math class, students can break into pairs to think about and discuss why a certain formula works and then share what they discussed. By doing this, students would be actively engaged in learning about the reason behind the formulas of math. In science classes, students could discuss what the best experiment would be to prove a hypothesis. In the social sciences, students can make predictions about the ramifications of historical events or they could discuss current political policies. An E/LA class could use the TPS strategy to analyze poetry, understand complicated literature, or even before writing. The students can pair up and share their ideas and debate about the meaning of a poem. In fact, the TPS method is often used in university literature classes to help students think about the topics more carefully and with some peer review. Thus, nearly any content area benefits from using the TPS strategy.

TPS Tools and Handouts
The only tools that are necessary for the implementation of TPS are a topic that should be thought about and discussed. These topics can come from a textbook, article, lecture, movie, drama, and nearly any other content that students are to learn. Note taking material, such as pen or pencil and paper, may help students keep track of their ideas and discussion. However, notes are not completely necessary for the strategy because the main point of the strategy is to develop true discussions about the content.

Implementation Plan

TPS Introduced and Modeled to the Class
Because the TPS strategy is so flexible there are a plethora of ways it can be introduced. In its most basic form though, the teacher should model how the students should think about texts by doing a think-aloud. A think-aloud is simply done by talking through the steps that are usually done in the mind. Vocalizing the thinking process can be difficult. Thus, it is important to be prepared to walk the students through the process. Notes and a few practices may be helpful. Though it may be helpful to have a student or co-teacher help with the modeling, a teacher can model the discussion and note taking alone as long as they use the think-aloud method. It may be helpful to explain the importance of the strategy. By explaing to students that TPS can help them connect to the text, develop prior knowledge, and get ideas from others, students will learn how to approach the strategy and how it may help them the most with their learning.

The modeling should use a small portion of the text or topic that the students will be using. Because different content requires different thought processes, using the text that the students will use should help them understand the approach that should be taken when discussing and thinking about the text. Furthermore, whenever the strategy will be used on a different type of text, the teacher should demonstrate how to use the strategy. For example, when studying a play, the process may be different than when studying a poem.

Most TPS sessions would benifit from a prompt. Even if the students are not required to follow the prompt, a prompt will help students that are not sure what to think about and discuss.
The prompt given can be critical to the flow of the learning process. Therefore, care should be given to how the prompt is given. The prompt can focus on key concepts of academic content, open-ended questions to connect with the students’ lives, questions to emphasize academic skills, questions about a specific topic, or specific vocabulary words or concepts. Always use a prompt when breaking students into TPS pairs, even if the prompt is not too specific. However, often the goal of TPS may be to allow the students to be able to create their own questions.

After the teacher walks the students through the whole process, with the think-aloud method, the class should break into pairs and begin using the strategy.

Teachers should provide guidance in how students are paired. In our previous wiki one suggestion was that teachers could order the class high to low and divide the class at the midpoint to have two ordered sets. Then students at the top of the first set were paired with the top of the second set. Robb cautions that ordering students high to low may set up a relationship whereby there is not mutual sharing and suggests that students might be better paired at about the same ability levels. The key is to make sure that each person in the pairs is an active participant in knowledge sharing whereby both can learn from the other (p. 268). What is not desired is for one to be active and the other to be a passive observer. The purpose of the strategy is for all students to be active in the conversation.

Scaffolding
The teacher should scaffold TPS by decreasing the amount of modeling and couching that xhe does. The first few times that the strategy is used the teacher should do a significant amount of modelling of questions and the thinking process. As the students become more familiar with the process, the teacher should limit the amount of modeling and contribution to the discussions during pairing and sharing.

Individual and Independent Learning with TPS
Though the strategy is not intended to be used alone, students can learn to think as if they were paired with a partner. This will allow them to use the strategy by themselves. However, the TPS strategy is still ideally used with pairs. Thus, students can use the strategy to study independently, but would benefit more from asking for help from another student. With sufficient scaffolding, the students should know how to start and finish the strategy. Furthermore, they will be able to recognize when it would be good to use the TPS strategy.

Standards
As mentioned earlier, the TPS strategy is very flexible and can be used in possibly all content areas and many topics within the content areas. Though there is not a standard in high school E/LA that directly involves teaching TPS, because of the strategy's adaptability and ease of use, it can apply to nearly all the standards. For example, with
both of these standards, students can use the TPS strategy to discuss the literature and help each other analyze and evaluate the text and the different styles and forms that the authors use.
EL.12.3.2 2006Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Literary Text:Evaluate the way in which the theme or meaning of a selection represents a view or comment on life, using textual evidence to support the claim.
EL.12.3.3 2006Analyze the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author's style, and the "sound" of language achieve specific rhetorical (persuasive) or aesthetic (artistic) purposes or both.

In physics, this strategy is very helpful, especially with regard to physics in concert with other sciences and as physics interacts with the socio-political world. TPS is great in aiding students to understand the specific content of velocity, acceleration, force, momentum, charge, electricity, etc. As students come to understand the content of the science, they need to understand how the content of the science influences issues of the day. Some issues that come to mind are nuclear energy, global warming, alternative energy sources, fracking of oil sands, safety and durability of infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, waterways and levies for flood control). The strategy is helpful because conversation (dialog) in the classroom is the same motif by which physicists testify before congress, which brings the science into dialog with issues of the day.

SC.P.1 2000 - Principles of Physics
Students recognize the nature and scope of physics, including its relationship to other sciences and its ability to describe the natural world. Students learn how physics describes the natural world, using quantities such as velocity, acceleration, force, energy, momentum, and charge. Through experimentation and analysis, students develop skills that enable them to understand the physical environment. They learn to make predictions about natural phenomena by using physical laws to calculate or estimate these quantities. Students learn that this description of nature can be applied to diverse phenomena at scales ranging from the subatomic to the structure of the universe and include every day events. Students learn how the ideas they study in physics can be used in concert with the ideas of the other sciences. They also learn how physics can help to promote new technologies. Students will be able to communicate what they have learned orally, mathematically, using diagrams, and in writing.

Assessing Learning with TPS
One great aspect of the strategy is that it provides many importunities for teachers to monitor students' learning. The teacher can look at the notes of students or simply listen to the paired discussions and the class discussions. Because the strategy can be used in many situations, if the teacher feels the need to assess the students' understanding of a text, they can quickly break students into groups to TPS. The possibilities for informal assessment are many. However, using TPS to formally assess students may be more difficult and it may stifle the whole process.

Students could also be given instruction about using TPS as a home self-assessing or learning strategy. The student could break down hir learning process to a think-aloud about the subject of study. The think-aloud would be recorded and then played back by the student. The auditory exercise can help students assess their own learning and comprehension of the text

Reflections, Adaptations, and Modifications
Other than having to keep the students on task, both S514 group members had positive and productive experiences with the TPS strategy.
Member 1's students were a fifth grade male and a seventh grade female, who are both good readers that have little trouble with many texts. The fifth grade student was actually very familiar with the strategy and claimed that they did it all the time in his class. The seventh grader did not know about the strategy. Because the seventh grater is doing a project on the Japanese internment camps in World War II, member 1 chose to use the preface of
Miné Okubo's Citizen 13660, which is a personal account of a person that lived through the internment camp experience.
Member 2 of the S-514 class taught a math lesson about translating English language into Math language. He used a chapter from Danica McKellar’s book, Math Doesn’t Suck, How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. This is a chapter that is dedicated to developing the skill of translating math language into English language and vice versa. The importance of this lesson for middle grade students is that surviving word problems is essentially a process of being able to do this translation. Most of these students have successfully learned to manipulate numbers in basic patterns like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. But when it comes to word problems the skill needed is basically the ability to determine the process by which to manipulate the numbers related to the problem. That process is essentially a matter of being able to translate the English language of the problem into math language in order to set in place a process by which to manipulate the numbers.
Member #2 duplicated this chapter from Danica McKellar’s book and gave a copy of it to each of the three members of his class. The class consisted of twin boys in the 8th grade and their cousin, a female high school sophomore. The lesson was conducted by the group reading the chapter as a group and the teacher breaking the learning process for Think Pair Share sessions.

What Worked/Did Not Work
The process for member 1 and 2's class worked very well. Since member 1's student's are siblings and member 2's students are cousins and enjoy each other’s company, both teachers had to frequently monitor the student's on-task attention. This need was no doubt exacerbated by the class being held in a familiar setting away from a formal classroom atmosphere at an after hour time. Even though this was necessary, it did not detract significantly from their learning.

Member 1 broke the TPS into a few parts. First, member 1 modeled how to do the TPS with himself by skimming the reading and talking through the process of deciphering the vocabulary. Then he asked the students to think about what they knew about the internment camps and to then discuss it with each other. He then asked them to share what they discussed. After reading the text, member 1 asked the students why the passage made a point of the fact that many of the people in the internment camps were U.S. citizens. He also asked what they know about the internment camps after they have read it. At first they claimed they did not know much else but after some discussion, they clearly understood more than they thought. The strategy helped them vocalize what they knew they knew and helped them realize what the did not know they knew. Furthermore, by discussing the passage with each other, they brought up passages that needed further investigation. When this happened, member 1 directed them back to the reading to decipher the meaning.

Member 2's class, being a mixed gender class, was a blessing to the students’ understanding of the lesson of McKellar’s book. Hir book is written in girl talk language. She used a girl talk expression to emphasis a point about translating from one language to another. The expression she used was when a girl says to her boyfriend, “You do not have to give me anything for my birthday.” The text reads that that does not mean what it says. The girl cousin was asked to explain. She clearly proclaimed that the meaning is: “You certainly do have to give me something for my birthday. It does not have to be expensive, but you do have to give me something, unless, of course, you want to become history with me.” The significance of the illustration is that in order to translate English to Math one needs to pay attention to the context in which the language is spoken. Because the students were a mixed gender group this message was able to be understood with more impact than if the teacher had just made the same point.

Modifications Made During Implementation
Member 1 only changed the share part of the strategy. Because, he observed the paired discussions, the sharing of the discussion was not as integral to the session. However, member 1 used the sharing portion of the strategy to discuss the passage a little further and coach the students on ways of sharing and discussing passages. The only modification that member 2 made was that the teaching was conducted in a pair of three instead of two. This did not seem to be a handicap for the learning atmosphere. Actually it seemed to enhance the conversation with the group as compared to earlier lessons the teacher has had with the two boys together.

Modifications for Future Implementations
The use of TPS is a very powerful strategy in the learning process because it compbines, in a strategic way, many learning processes. It maximizes listening (reading), thinking, formulating language and responding. However, since high school and middle school students can easily become off-task, teachers are well advised to use TPS in a structured setting but to expect some loudness. While planning for the class, the teacher should think trough the lesson with the prompts for the TPSs in mind to devise prompts that will build a structure that helps the students remain on task and enhance accountability. This can be done by carefully wording the prompts so as to give each a responsibility to share and report back the others responses as well as to give each pair accountability to report back either to the class or to a larger group or to the teacher. However, the reporting back should not be graded as that would stifle spontaneity of expression.

Reflections:
The TPS strategy is a very interesting and useful strategy that can be an in depth structured process that holds students accountable for their participation or it can be a quick process that is used to get the students thinking and relaxed about the topic. Because of its usefulness and flexibility, the TPS strategy should be used often and in a variety of scenarios and content areas. Promps will help focus the sessions but sometimes the students can create their own prompts or the prompts can be very open-ended and require high order thinking. The discussion possibilities and learning potential of the TPS strategy are very promising.

References:
McKellar, Danica. (2007). Math Dos’t Suck, How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. New York: Hudson Street Press

Okubo, Miné (1983). Preface. In Miné Okubo, Citizen 13660 (pp. vii-xii). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Robb, Laura. (2003). Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math: Practical Ways to Weave Comprehension. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Zwiers, Jeff. (2008). Building Academic Language, Essential Practices for Content Classroonms, Grades 5 – 12. San Francisco: A Wiley Imprint.


Further Research

The following websites contain information and ideas that can be useful when using the TPS strategy:



http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/think/

http://www.readingquest.org/strat/tps.html

http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/using-think-pair-share-30626.html