Jigsaw - an interactive approach for reading

Have you used a "jigsaw" with your students?  If you aren't familiar with the term, it is a strategy that emphasizes cooperative learning by providing students with an opportunity to actively help each other build comprehension. It is commonly used for reading groups of all skill levels.  In a nutshell, each group member is responsible for becoming an "expert" on one section of the assigned material and then "teaching" it to the other members of the team. The best part is that students are not passive!

Steps for using a Jigsaw for Reading

1. Select coursework or resource material for your students to work with that can be divided up into several parts.

2. Students can read the material in class (if it is brief) or outside of class (if it is lengthy).

3. Count the number of students and count the number of learning segments (I usually do this in advance of the lesson).

4. Give the study groups a reasonable length of time to complete their learning. Let them know they will be the “expert” teaching other students what they know. Remember to check understanding of the procedures before you give out the materials.  

5. After the study period, have the students form “jigsaw learning” groups.  Each jigsaw group should have a representative from every study group in the class. For example, if you have the students number off in their study groups, they would form groups with the same number. (I always write the diagram below on the board to help explain how it works).
Here are some diagrams to illustrate what this might look like:

Class Composition =   12 students = m n o m n o m n o m n o
Study Groups   
Study Group 1 = mmmm
Study Group 2 = n n n n
Study Group 3 = o o o o
Jigsaw Learning Groups  
Jigsaw Learning Group 1 = m n o
Jigsaw Learning Group 2 = m n o
Jigsaw Learning Group 3 = m n o
Jigsaw Learning Group 4 = m n o

6. When students are in their “jigsaw” groups, ask them to take turns teaching each other what they have learned in their different study groups.

7. Reconvene the full class to have them report back, ask them questions, or fill in any “gaps".

Looking for a fun way to introduce yourself using a jigsaw? This idea is from my good friend Marg Heidebrecht.

“Prepare a jigsaw activity to introduce yourself. I created one with 3 parts – my family, my hobbies and my work. Find 3 gift bags and fill with items that correspond to each part. Print up some photos, look around your house, and rummage through your briefcase so that you have a variety of objects. Write a one-page summary of those 3 parts of your life. On the first day of class, ask students what part of your life they’re interested in. Family? Hobbies? Work? Put them into groups and give them the appropriate gift bag. They read, talk, look at the items and ask you any questions they have. Put them into NEW groups of three – one from family, one from hobbies and one from work. They tell this new group what they found out about you.  Your first ESL class won’t be your only class. Every semester you’ll meet new students. You might have to change the one-page written summary to fit the group’s reading level, but the props can be used again and again.  I’ve been teaching for 25 years and have used my gift bags 50+ times!!” 

If you would like to learn more about jigsaws, I interviewed Nancy Callan, a Canadian ESL teacher who has written several books on jigsaw reading https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog/nancy-callan-esl-teacher-writer-esl-jigsaws 

Nancy made a YouTube video to demonstrate how to use jigsaws https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr9XRzxigVQ
Check out her website at http://www.esljigsaws.com/ and also download a sample lesson (pdf file) http://www.esljigsaws.com/assets/lessons/samplelesson.pdf

If you do try a jigsaw for the first time, please let me know the results.

Happy Teaching!  Patrice

Online Resources Library

Looking for some free PD or interested in learning about management, the arts, law, history, literature, science or health? Future Learn https://www.futurelearn.com offers hundreds of free courses in a variety of categories including a free course by the British Council https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/becoming-a-better-teacher

Want to teach with TEDTalks?  Sapna Sehgal has developed a wonderful resource that includes 25 lessons based on TEDTalk http://courses.teachingcove.com/?affcode=91807_vcfgsnff
If you would like a free sample of the full first TED Talk Lesson Plan and introduction, go https://www.teachingcove.com/printables-library/ (April 2017 section).


About Me

My name is Patrice Palmer OCELT, M.Ed., M.A. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I now work as a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses and books, blogging, sharing teaching materials, and providing instructional coaching to new teachers http://www.teacherpreneur.ca. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year. For more teaching resources, please visit my website at http://www.patricepalmer.ca

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