Spotlight Activity: The Jigsaw Classroom

Decorative: A jigsaw puzzle in the process of being assembled


A. "The Jigsaw Classroom" (web site) introduces "a cooperative learning technique that reduces ... conflict ..., promotes better learning, improves student motivation, and increases enjoyment of the learning experience."

1. Jigsaw activities can also be easily adapted for online use.

2. See also

3. Topics covered below include the following:

  • Benefits of the Jigsaw Approach
  • "Jigsaw in Ten Easy Steps"
  • Potential Problem Areas (and Suggested Solutions)
  • Rubrics for Jigsaw Activities (and a basic worksheet template)

B. Benefits of the Jigsaw Approach ("Overview," click "Learn More")

  • Easy to learn, enjoyable to work with, can be used with other teaching strategies
  • Is "highly structured," requires interdependence, "encourages students to take an active part in their learning ... and to be responsible for what he learns"
  • Makes each student "a valuable resource for the others" 
  • "[G]radually diminishes the need to ry to out-perform each other becaus eone student's learning enhances the performance of the ther students instead of inhibiting it"

C. "Jigsaw in 10 Easy Steps"

1. "Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups."

  • "The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and ability."

2. "Appoint one student from each group as the leader."

  • "Initially, this person should be the most mature student in the group."

3. "Divide the day’s lesson into 5-6 segments."

  • For example, an assigned reading might be divided into the sections of the article, chapter, text; a topic for research or study might be divide chronologically or thematically; etc.

4. "Assign each student to learn one segment."

  • Make sure students have direct access only to their own segment

5. "Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it."

  • "There is no need for them to memorize it."

6. "Form temporary 'expert groups' by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.

  • "Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group."

7. "Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups."

8. "Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group."

  • "Encourage others in the group to ask questions for clarification."

9. "Float from group to group, observing the process."

  • "If any group is having trouble (e.g., a member is dominating or disruptive), make an appropriate intervention."
  • "Eventually, it's best for the group leader to handle this task."
  • "Leaders can be trained by whispering an instruction on how to intervene, until the leader gets the hang of it."

10. "At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material."

  • "Students quickly come to realize that these sessions are not just fun and games but really count."

D. Potential Problem Areas (and Suggested Solutions; Click "More about Implementation")

1. The Dominant Student

  • "[A]ppoint one of the students to be the discussion leader for each session, on a rotating basis."
  • "It is the leader's job to call on students in a fair manner and try to spread participation evenly."
  • [S]tudents quickly realize that the group runs more effectively if each student is allowed to present her or his material before question and comments are taken."
  • "Thus, the self-interest of the group eventually reduces the problem of dominance."

2. The Slow Student

  • "[M]ake sure that students with poor study skills do not present an inferior report to the jigsaw group ... [by relying] on 'expert' groups."
  • "Before presenting a report to their jigsaw groups, each student enters an expert group consisting of other students who have prepared a report on the same topic.
  • "In the expert group, students have a chance to discuss their report and modify it based on the suggestions of other members of their expert group."
  • "In the early stages, monitor the expert groups carefully, just to make sure that each student ends with an accurate report to bring to her or his jigsaw group."
  • "[O]nce the expert groups get the hang of it, close monitoring becomes unnecessary."

3. Bright Students Becoming Bored

  • "If bright students are encouraged to develop the mindset of 'teacher,' the learning experience can be transformed from a boring task into an exciting challenge."
  • "Not only does such a challenge produce psychological benefits, but the learning is frequently more thorough."

4. Students Who Have Been Trained to Compete

  • "Old habits are not easy to break. But they can be broken."
  • "[A]lthough it generally takes a bit longer, most ... students participating in jigsaw for the first time display a remarkable ability to benefit from the cooperative structure."

E. Rubrics for Jigsaw Activities (and a basic worksheet)

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