From 1:1 to paired and shared: Building time to think

14 Dec From 1:1 to paired and shared: Building time to think


Last month we launched Verso with seven amazing elementary schools in Horry School District, South Carolina. Through pre-workshop conversations with some of the teachers and school leaders, I was inspired to test a few ideas about using Verso in a group or paired scenario.

The idea is nothing new but I was keen to see how group exercises could be used as a prelude to individual work. As we head from state to state, working with schools and school districts, we see that the vast majority of provocations created by our community of teachers are geared towards students using a device of their own. I was surprised that shared and paired work, which we know to be highly effective in the classroom, seems notable by its absence. As a tool for formative assessment, Verso offers authentic visibility on every student’s thinking and as such, I believe teachers have been inclined to gravitate towards the use of one to one activities.

With each student’s original idea serving as the key to unlock multiple perspectives, Verso engages learners in deep, relational thinking, whilst immersing them in multiple layers of feedback and feed forward. Higher order thinking and visibility on learning that allows teachers to adapt what happens next is powerful, however, I have to consider whether we are always gaining insight into student’s at their best.

In my workshops I am keen to point out that one of the worst things we should do when using Verso, or just about any application, is allow students to open up an activity and immediately begin to type. As a teacher I want visibility on my student’s thinking but if I m going to use their ideas to activate other learners or to inform my planning, I want to see their best ideas rather than their first.

Often when students open up their devices we forget the strategies that are tried and tested in the classroom. Simple things have high leverage impact. For example, building in time for thinking, pre-loading an activity through face-to-face discussion, or asking students to write down as many ideas as they can before sharing their best in Verso.

Many classrooms I visit are awash with posters sharing key academic vocabulary, outlining thinking strategies, SOLO and other taxonomies and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge charts. Designed to support and lead students to a point of understanding or to broaden and deepen their journey, these are seen as central to learning, yet when the computers come out and students go online, it seems these too frequently get left behind in the physical world. Quite often, students seated on shared tables, carefully pulled together to support class and group discussion, become isolated by their devices. One to one, rather than connecting students, can at times trap them in the C21st equivalent of the Victorian desk. Busy rooms go eerily quiet and until that first idea is shared, students are on their own.


Talking with the teachers in Horry County SD, I was keen to try some scenarios that aligned more closely with their well-established pedagogical framework. I wanted to demonstrate how Verso could be used to allow all students to not just “find their greatness” but to use it as a stepping-stone to even deeper learning.


Case Study

Part 1: Shared

The Grade 3-5 teachers from Horry SD each had their own devices. With a combination of smart phones, notebooks and iPads, we worked through a series of Verso provocations before I asked them to form groups of 3 or 4.

Each group had a large sheet of paper and a nominated scribe. Each team selected a group publisher who would input their ideas into just one of their devices with all the others put away. Other allocated roles were timekeeper and Quality Controller, the person with their eye on the requirements of the task at hand.

Each publisher was given a new Verso class code, which gave him or her access to the group activity.

Using a separate class code meant that data would only be collected for the student who was required to input the data. I didn’t want other students to appear not to have completed or engaged in an assigned task.


Newspaper Headlines

SHARE: The activity shared clear expectations with regard to the required group response.

CARE: It also gave explicit instructions on how each group was required to comment on the other groups’ work


I also used the additional information form to share ideas and explanations of key terminology to support students in delivering their best response to the challenge.


Part 2: Individual

I was inspired by the quality of discussion in each group. The debate, refinement, sharing and co-construction involved every participant. The allocation of roles and responsibilities kept the conversations on track.  After reviewing, discussing and improving each group’s report openings, the students were ready for the next part of the activity.

For the second activity I wanted visibility on each student’s understanding. This was to be my formative assessment activity. The data and evidence of this individual response was going to inform my planning.


This activity was exactly the same except the students were working individually and could select an image from a Google Slideshow.



Using Google Slides presented an opportunity to use images that aligned with current affairs and key learning areas.



The outcomes from this second, individual activity far surpassed the outcomes from a similar class that did not have the opportunity to engage in an initial group activity.

The group activity allowed students to think, share, collaborate and engage critically and deeply with the task. It served as a prelude to the second activity, allowing each student to “find their greatness”, and giving me vital visibility on every student at their best, allowing me to personalize the next stage of every student’s journey.


Both activities have now been shared in the Verso Global Library and can be accessed by searching using “newspaper headlines” (activity 1) and “Newsflash” (Activity 2), or using the links above. If you’re a Campus subscriber having trouble accessing the shared library contact our help desk via

Other recommended activities suitable for the same approach:

MATH: “Mystery Shape”


Thinking about the properties of 2D shapes

ELA: “Story Openings”


Using images from the BBC News IN Pictures site to craft story openings focused on introducing a setting.

STUDENT INQUIRY: “Food” (Part 1) and “Inquiry Question” (Part 2)


Students collaborate to develop their own inquiry questions



Make sure you check out the School Activity Library to find Activities being shared by your colleagues or the Verso Activity Library to find Activities made by Phil Stubbs. Got any other great Activities that you’re using in class, let us know in the comments below!

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