Active Learning Strategy: Think-Jot-Pair-Share

Overview and Introduction: The WHAT and WHO

Think-Jot-Pair-Share is similar to Think-Pair-Share which allows students to reflect on any presented materials, think about a response, write (or jot) down their response, pair up and share their responses with a partner or group.  

This strategy is used in conjunction with teacher questioning and the lesson content itself.  When designing questions, take into consideration student current and pre-existing knowledge to avoid potentially overwhelming them.  Plan for the use of a variety of questions that not only check for basic comprehension of the material but also questions that challenge students to analyze and evaluate the content.  The use of Bloom’s question stems [1], to develop a variety of question types, within different levels of thinking, is a helpful resource.  

Think-Jot-Pair-Share can be used with a simple teacher question, or used in tandem with low-stakes writing activities,  such as reflection on learning, etc..  

The consistent use of varied and low-stakes writing activities, support students in the following ways [2]:

  • Increase student engagement and participation
  • Provide moments for students to interact with the content and express thoughts, understanding, etc.
  • Allows faculty to assess their learners

The use of Think-Jot-Pair-Share can be used in a variety of courses, modalities, and with all learners.  Certain considerations must be made, depending on the class modality; on-ground, online or hybrid. Be cognizant of the student’s accessibility needs in the course and ensure all students are able to access the activity in a way that is equitable. The Educational Outreach and Student Services provides accommodations for students, such as this notetaker accommodation, for students. Direct students requisition modifications and accommodations to the website.

Implementation and Timing: The WHEN, WHERE, and HOW

The use of Think-Jot-Pair-Share can vary from a simple teacher question to being used alongside a low-stake writing activity.  See below for implementation options.      

Graphics of steps. Top sequences is: faculty poses a question, think-jot-pair-share, provide 1-2 minutes to write, and provide 1-2 minutes to share. Second is: choose a low stakes writing activity, think-jot-pair-share, provide 2-3 minutes to write, and provide 1-2 minutes to share.



Traditional-Sized Course

In Person-

Large Course





-Determine questions prior to lesson

-Determine if a low-stakes writing activity is applicable and will be used

-Pair learners up based on where they sit in the room (pairs, groups at the same table, students in the same vicinity)

-Allow students the chance to share out to the whole class

-Plan for absent people and how pairings will be adjusted

-Plan for odd pairings and how they will still receive equal share time

-Train UGTAs & TAs how to quickly assist in grouping and monitoring conversations

-Determine where students will jot thinking:  in notebooks, on a Google doc, etc. 

-Plan for absent learners and how pairings will be adjusted using the space

-Rove around the entire space and listen in to conversations.  Highlight good points you heard.

-Determine how you will get their attention to bring them back to you (posted timer, an alarm, etc.)

– Clickers and interactive graded (or ungraded) feedback

-See the Think-Pair-Share QRG for more in-person classroom ideas

-Place students in breakout rooms in pairs or groups to discuss  

-Allow students to respond in chat.  Acknowledge their responses and read some aloud

– Interactive presentation websites (like clickers)

– Zoom Whiteboard / Jamboard (online collaboration apps)

-Use the discussion tool in Canvas or Ed Discussion

-Consider pairing/grouping students for the entirety of a course

-Ask open-ended questions 

-Make sure to comment on some of their posts.  This communicates you value their thoughts and find this task valuable

-Communicate how many times they should jot and share per week/module and assign points

-Follow up to address the quality of responses.  Consider having UGTAs follow up with students on discussion threads

Implementation Tips

  • Imagine how you will use their writing. Participation grades? Non-graded?  
  • Plan for teaching the strategy to students to demonstrate your expectations. Funny role plays might help!
  • Determine questions prior to lesson that a open ended and high level.
  • Decide if a low-stakes writing activity is applicable and will be used.
  • Consider class layout/modality.  How will students be grouped?  How will everyone have access to the activity?
  • Communicate with students and explain the rationale for incorporating writing and/or low-stake writing activities.
  • Build time into the lesson to account for the activity.
  • Ask for student feedback on Think-Jot-Pair-Share.  

Rationale and Research: The WHY

Writing can induce critical thinking as students summarize, interpret and synthesize ideas into either informal or formal pieces [3].   The retention of content information can also occur when varying types of writing activities are utilized in a course.  Furthermore, once engineering students enter the job field, writing becomes an even more important component of their work.  “Engineers in the world of work report that the communication of information takes up as much as 80% of their time, the communication of information is an essential element of successful engineering practice…” [p. 492, 4].  Literature reviewed however, detailed that the ability to communicate information, write effectively, seek information and present oral presentations are lacking in engineers entering the field [4].  Utilizing an active learning strategy as simple as think-pair-jot-share provides students with the chance to practice writing in order to demonstrate and communicate their thinking; essential skills, very much embedded within the engineering field.  Including small, recurring writing activities throughout a course has also shown to improve student performance on assessments.  Students in a psychology course at a state university in Georgia were given recurring, in-class writing assignments, or ‘microthemes’ about the course topics.  A control group was used and this group did not receive recurring writing assignments.  At the end of the course, both groups  took a multiple choice assessment over the course content.  The students who completed the writing microthemes scored higher on the assessment than the control group, and they also “…earned writing scores equivalent to those of honors microtheme students…” [p. 48, 5]. Additionally students who participated in the writing microthemes, rated the writing experiences and overall class more positively than the control students [5].  These findings suggest that small, writing activities such as think-pair-jot-share, used over the length of the course, can improve student retention of coursework.  

Additional Resources and References

[1]  L. Anderson and D. Krathwohl, “Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy’–’Question Starters,’” 2001. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 21-Dec-2022].

[2]  “Low stakes writing activities,” Teaching Assistants’ Training Program, 17-May-2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 16-Nov-2022].

[3]  E. F. Barkley, C. H. Major, and K. P. Cross, Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

[4]  T. E. Pinelli, R. O. Barclay, L. M. Keene, J. M. Kennedy, and L. F. Hecht, “From Student to Entry-level  Professional: Examining the  Role of Language and Written  Communications in the  Reacculturation of Aerospace  Engineering Students,” Technical Communication, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 492–503, 1995.

[5]  T. L. Stewart, A. C. Myers, and M. R. Culley, “Enhanced learning and retention through ‘writing to learn’ in the psychology classroom,” Teaching of Psychology, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 46–49, 2010.