A jigsaw is the perfect way to bring students together in pursuit of a common goal. Students work in small, interdependent groups where they each become an “expert” on one aspect of a topic and teach the rest of their group. As a result, students own their learning, develop multiperspectivity, and gain problem-solving and critical-thinking skills through authentic tasks and inquiry-based learning.
You can create your own jigsaw classroom by following these steps:
- Divide your students into heterogeneous (e.g., different interests, skill levels, genders, ethnicities) groups of 3-5.
- Appoint one student from each group as the leader – this can be the most mature student, a student who likes leading, or a student who would benefit from added responsibility. We suggest creating and sharing a tip sheet, which group leaders can use to facilitate discussion.
- Split the day’s lesson into segments based on the number of students per group – for example, if you’re studying animals in a science class, you might consider segmenting the class based on five animal classes (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians).
- Assign one student from each group a different segment on which he/she will become an expert (they can use informational texts, the Internet, visual resources, etc. for research). Using the animal example, in each group, the first student will be assigned mammals, the second will be assigned birds, and so on.
- Give students ample time to research their segment. You can have them do this during class time, at home, or in the computer lab. Download this free graphic organizer, which students can use to organize their research.
- Form temporary expert groups so students can meet and discuss their topic before presenting to their original groups.
- Re-form original groups and ask each student to present his or her segment to the group. Encourage group members to ask questions and take notes.
- Move from group to group to ensure that the process is running smoothly, and guide students who may need additional support (this is also a perfect time for formative assessment).
- Assess students’ mastery of the content by assigning a group project (e.g., presentation, poster, debate) in which everyone contributes equally.
To see one approach to the jigsaw classroom, check out this video.
Suggestions for Using the Jigsaw Technique Across Disciplines
- Assign different sections or a specific character from a text to students. The activity might culminate in a newspaper article or blog that describes key events from the plot and how each character contributed. For more ideas, click here.
- When developing students’ reasoning skills, assign a problem, like this, that can be solved using different approaches. Each student in the jigsaw group can be tasked with becoming an expert on one specific approach to the problem and explaining the process to the rest of the group.
- The jigsaw technique is a great tool for science instruction as it models the collaborative approaches that scientists, engineers, and physicians take to solve problems. During a lesson on the human body, allow each student to become a specialist in a specific system (e.g., cardiovascular or immune) before creating a visual model of how the systems work together.
- Foster students’ historical thinking skills by posing an important question in history, for instance: Why did the Egyptians build the pyramids? Have students answer the question from different perspectives (e.g., from the points-of-view of those that built the pyramids, the ruling class at the time, archaeologists, and/or historians).
- The jigsaw approach can be used to help students develop expertise in a particular skill or movement, or to enhance knowledge about a specific sound or instrument. Before a dance performance, for example, assign each student a set of movements to perfect and to teach their peers. The performance can serve as the summative assessment.