Pair Sharing: A Best Practice
Pair Sharing is generally acknowledged as a best practice in education. In classrooms I visit, however, I rarely see it used, let alone integrated into lessons as a regular practice. Reducing the amount of teacher talk and getting students to talk to each other is one of the cheapest and easiest education reforms anyone can implement. The structure of schooling must change to become more child-centered or it risks becoming irrelevant. Teachers need to get off the stage a little bit and here’s a way to do it without giving up complete control.
I was lucky enough to be trained in the GLAD strategies early in my teaching career and their philosophy of 10-2 greatly influenced my thinking about pair sharing. Their idea is that for every ten minutes of teacher talk, there should be two minutes of student talk. This means that you do not have to necessarily have students answer a question when they are talking with each other, they can and should sometimes simply summarize what you’ve been talking about. While students share with each other—and this is the most important part— teachers circulate around the room and listen in.
Having student summarize what you’ve been teaching helps students to:
- Transition information into long-term memory through talking and not just listening.
- Release energy that’s been bottled up for the previous ten minutes.
- Refocus if they’ve been tuned out while you were talking.
Having students summarize what you’ve been teaching helps teachers to:
- Assess whether students understand what you’re talking about. You’d never know whether they understand if you don’t take the two minutes to get that feedback.
- Increase accountability for what’s discussed by requiring students to talk about it in pairs and then whole group.
- Listen to students. They feel like they’re not listened to and, generally speaking, they’re right.
- Encourage students who are normally shy but have great ideas to share their ideas with the whole class.
Before starting pair sharing you need to teach students how to do it. Choose a volunteer from the classroom and Model:
- How to find a partner (they should be close by)
- What to do if there are no partners (a group of thee is fine if that’s all you can find)
- Body language for listening (look at your partner, sit still)
- Appropriate volume (everyone practice saying “I like pizza in a quiet voice)
- Signals for getting the class back together as a whole.
The first time you try this, it might go badly. Please expect that and don’t give up.
Other Uses for Pair Sharing
In addition to summarizing, students can solve problems, answer questions, or share a personal experience when talking with partners.
Pair sharing can and should be a part of every single lesson every single day or else I’d say the teacher is likely hogging the stage and students may or may not be retaining what’s being said.
How do you get students talking in your classroom?