Collaborative Pairs – Why, How, What


Why are Collaborative Pairs activities needed throughout Lesson Instruction?

Students are paired during Lesson Instruction to think together about the information they are learning. Various types of Collaborative Pairs activities should be planned and used to engage students purposefully, provide movement that enhances engagement, and deepen understanding of content. Frequent opportunities to process information with a partner throughout the lesson to utilize the second most effective research-based learning strategy, Distributed Summarizing. Students are actively engaged during Collaborative Pairs as it is tough for an individual to get lost in a pair. It also allows you to quickly monitor students’ progress and make reasonable determinations regarding who understands, needs additional support, and is not comprehending.

How do you implement the Collaborative Pairs strategy to achieve the greatest impact?

  • Collaborative Pairs should be used throughout the Learning Activities to facilitate summarization, reflection, prediction, and review.
  • Collaborative Pairs tasks used as Assessment Prompts must align with the Levels of Learning of the specific “Will Be Able To… (Do)” Learning Goal(s) being assessed.
  • Consistently provide students multiple opportunities during the lesson to collaboratively respond to questions and prompts as Distributed Summarizing and Distributed Practice before independent work.
  • Carefully monitor students’ thinking/conversations/writing and use their responses to inform instruction.

What does this strategy look like in both my in-person classroom and when used with online learning?

Example 1: Numbered Heads

Description: Students are partnered and designated a label. Both partners are expected to participate in a discussion, ensuring equal accountability and engagement. Numbered Heads works best when used for frequent, short summarization opportunities. According to John Medina, a good rule of thumb for this is his “10/2 Rule.” For every 10-15 minutes of input (e.g., reading, lecture, video, etc.), students receive two minutes to process learning with a partner.


  • Creatively assign each student as a #1 or #2 partner. In addition to numbers, feel free to use two different colors, two different shapes, etc.
  • Students should be in pairs. If needed, there can be one group of 3.
  • Announce the task and the time limit.
    • Partner #1 does_____________________.
    • Partner #2 does_______________________.
  • Activities are distributed throughout the lesson to:
    • Summarize
    • Clarify or explain
    • Predict
    • Generate a question

Digital Adaptation: Pair students using Google Meet or Zoom. Zoom has the added bonus of allowing you to create breakout rooms that let students collaborate with each other virtually. Use its 60-second countdown to bring students back to the main meeting whenever you are ready.

Example 2: Think-Ink-Share

Description: A variation of Think-Pair-Share, this strategy can be used to promote more rigorous thinking because students write their response to your Higher Order Thinking or Reading Comprehension questions/prompts before sharing with a partner or the group. It is effective in all parts of the lesson instruction if the question or prompt requires rigorous thinking and students are given sufficient time to think and craft a response.


  • Provide a question or prompt (such as a quote) for students to consider.
  • Provide 20-30 seconds of “think” time.
  • Students write their thoughts down independently for one to two minutes.
  • Students share their thoughts with a partner.
  • Responses are shared with the whole group.
  • Students revise their answers as needed based on their partner and class discussion.

Example 1: Math – Analyzing Relationships

  • Think: For two minutes, think about what you already know about translation, rotation, and reflection.
  • Ink: Write to explain how dilation transformations relate to the other three kinds of transformations. 
  • Share: Share your response with your partner. Add key ideas from your partner’s response to your graphic organizer. 

Example 2: ELA – Evaluate

  • Think: Select two words from the text that stand out as keywords. For one minute, think about why you selected these two words, and what makes them important. 
  • Ink: For each word, write to explain why you chose the word as an important word from the text. Make sure to use evidence from the text to support your reasoning. 
  • Share: Share your responses with your partner. How do your words and responses compare? 

Example 3: Social Studies – Cause and Effect

  • Think: For two minutes, think about the events that have led up to the U.S. becoming involved in World War II
  • Ink: Respond to the prompt: What events led to the U.S. becoming involved in World War II? 
  • Share: Share your response with your partner. Did your causes match? Add any missing causes to your graphic organizer and justify the importance of the events. 

Digital Adaptation: Post ideas and comments using Padlet or dotstorming.


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