Tricia Stapleton Using Think-Pair-Share on the First Day of Class

Filed in engaging students in class, first day of class by on January 17, 2016 0 Comments

Faculty-Portrait-Stapleton-e1402597083239I use several think-pair-share activities throughout a term in my ENV1100: Introduction to Environmental Studies (~50 students), including the first day of class. I have several objectives for employing a think-pair-share activity on the first day: 1) to set the tone of an active learning classroom for the term, 2) to make students review their existing knowledge of environmental issues, and 3) to create a list of major, environmental issues that will appear throughout the term.

Activity: For the activity, I first ask students to make a list of the top ten environmental issues facing the world today (~1 min). Then, students must compare their list with a partner, noting which issues they have in common and where they differed (~2 mins). As a class, I select students to report back on similarities, creating a master list on the board. I follow up for each issue by asking for a show of hands of how many students also had an issue on their list. Then, we add the less “popular” issues that only a student or two might have selected for this list (~3 mins). Finally, we organize the list according to specific themes that will be touched upon over the course of the term (water, air, soil, biodiversity). Building the master list usually takes 10-15 minutes.

Outcomes: As noted, I use several think-pair-share activities during ENV1100, so using this activity on the first day of class gives my students practice with the type of activity, and it gets them used to the idea that they will be expected to participate in class and connect with fellow students. I find that think-pair-share activities help get discussion started in class, and that is why I link them to other activities, such as building a master list of environmental issues. It gives students the opportunity to collect their thoughts, receive feedback from a peer in a low-stakes manner, and then contribute to the larger discussion. Finally, I tell students to keep the list as a reference point for our work throughout the term. They can add ideas to it as we cover new material and use it as a starting point for selecting their final paper topic. Because it is part of a low-stakes activity used to spark discussion, I have no formal means of assessment for it. However, I do use it to gauge general knowledge of major, environmental issues.

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