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Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up


This easily adapted activity can be used to help a class activate its shared prior knowledge in an engaging, cooperative, and nonthreatening setting.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
Assessing Prior Knowledge, Building Background

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Launching Into New Content
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Speaking

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Text-Based Answers


Identify the questions that you want students to consider. Think about what questions or brief tasks will best help students to activate their relevant background knowledge and to connect it to anticipated new learning.

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher explains to students that they will be engaging in an activity that will help them to remember what they already know about a new topic. Teacher describes the steps of the activity.

    Since this activity is multi-step, consider providing written directions or displaying the steps in a slide or on chart paper.

  2. All students stand up.
  3. Students mingle, mix, and practice greeting one another.

    Be careful to establish classroom expectations of how this should run. Help students to be courteous to one another, and to include everyone.

  4. Each student finds a partner.

    Again, the success of this element is based on establishing classroom norms and expectations. Students should not be allowed to reject potential partners, and should be discouraged from only choosing their friends.

  5. Partners sit down together.
  6. The teacher assigns and defines the task or question.

    Make sure the task or question is targeted to activate student background knowledge. Consider questions or tasks that allow for a range of responses so that students can learn from their partners.

  7. Students are given “think time.”

    You can circulate during think time to ask students about their thought process.

  8. Each pair of students completes the task.

    You may want to create a graphic organizer that students can use to organize their responses to each question or task.

  9. Timed Pair Share: Each pair of students is matched up with a different pair. The pairs present their responses to the question or their completed task to each other.

    Consider assigning pairs that will share-out with each other, helping students to mix up their groupings.

  10. Rally Robin Responses: The teacher poses a series of questions, and group members take turns rapidly answering each question.

    This activity will be best completed in the groups of four that are created after the pairs match up for the Timed Pair Share. This works best if the questions are open-ended.

  11. Teacher calls on groups to report out to the group. Groups report their answer(s) to the target question(s) or share their completed task(s).

    Be systematic about the groups you call on, and try to ensure that each student shares out at least once over the course of the activity.

  12. Students thank their partners and leave.
  13. Repeat the process as many times as desired, with new but related tasks and questions each time.

    Discourage students from repeating partner pairs.

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

Many math objectives require that students recall and can apply early skills or understandings, and Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up can be an active way to have students recall and reactivate these skills.  For instance, students frequently forget (conceptually and algorithmically) how to add fractions with unlike denominators, yet this skill is needed throughout algebra and geometry.  Identifying a few key questions to activate prior knowledge using Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up can help a lesson requiring this fraction skill progress more smoothly.

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