We all know what a jigsaw puzzle is, right? It's a puzzle with a bunch of pieces that all fit together to make the whole picture. While the pieces alone might seem to look like nothing, they all seamlessly fit together to make a beautiful picture. Believe it or not, you can actually take the same concept and make it work in your classroom, which can save you and your students a lot of time; while also teaching them communication skills necessary to be successful outside your class.
What are Jigsaw Activities?
Jigsaw activities are exactly what they sound like. You break students into groups and have each group read a specific article or piece of text, and they are responsible for teaching the rest of the class their segment. This can also be done without groups, if you have enough pieces of the text for students to tackle a segment individually. Hopefully, when you're finished, the whole class then has the complete picture of what you wanted them to learn without having to read the entire text or all the articles in the unit.
How to Make it Work in the Classroom
If you grew up in the 90’s, you remember watching Uncle Jesse and Joey try to do this same thing with a book they were reading, only to have it fail miserably because each didn't understand the half the other was supposed to report back on. The lesson here is that trying to cheat by doing only part of the work will always result in failure. However, when you are facilitating a jigsaw activity in your classroom, you can make it successful by requiring each group to complete specific activities relating to their segment of the text.
This can be a worksheet, answering several questions, completing a video project - the possibilities are endless and these are just a few. When the groups have completed their tasks, they must present their findings to the class. At this point, it is critical to have the students take notes. Since they did not read their own section of the text, they need to have something to reference in their notes.
End of Unit Activities
After all the groups have presented, it's a good idea to have an end of the unit activity ready to go to check the students' understanding of the topic. You can create a quiz based on the students' presentations and have the entire class take the quiz. You can also have students create their own quiz questions to test the students who have been listening to their presentation. It's also possible to have students complete a project that has one or more elements from each group's presentation. Again, the possibilities are endless, but it is a good idea to follow through with an end of the unit activity just to be sure the students were paying attention to all the presentations.
What does it Teach?
Jigsaw activities not only cover the required material of the classroom, but also teach much more than just reading comprehension and writing. Jigsaw activities require students to present information in such a way that the other students can understand what they are saying. This is much different than just giving a presentation or speech, because the students are not required to just talk at an audience, but rather teach the audience something and be sure they understand what has been taught. This is an important life skill, especially when you consider most jobs in the world require someone to teach something at some point in the workday.