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Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that enables each student of a "home" group to specialize in one aspect of a topic (for example, one group studies habitats of rainforest animals, another group studies predators of rainforest animals). Students meet with members from other groups who are assigned the same aspect, and after mastering the material, return to the "home" group and teach the material to their group members. With this strategy, each student in the "home" group serves as a piece of the topic's puzzle and when they work together as a whole, they create the complete jigsaw puzzle.

Why use jigsaw?

  • It helps build comprehension.
  • It encourages cooperative learning among students.
  • It helps improve listening, communication, and problem-solving skills.

How to use jigsaw

  1. Introduce the strategy and the topic to be studied.
  2. Assign each student to a "home group" of 3-5 students who reflect a range of reading abilities.
  3. Determine a set of reading selections and assign one selection to each student.
  4. Create "expert groups" that consist of students across "home groups" who will read the same selection.
  5. Give all students a framework for managing their time on the various parts of the jigsaw task.
  6. Provide key questions to help the "expert groups" gather information in their particular area.
  7. Provide materials and resources necessary for all students to learn about their topics and become "experts."

    Note: It is important that the reading material assigned is at appropriate instructional levels (90–95% reading accuracy).
  8. Discuss the rules for reconvening into "home groups" and provide guidelines as each "expert" reports the information learned.
  9. Prepare a summary chart or graphic organizer for each "home group" as a guide for organizing the experts' information report.
  10. Remind students that "home group" members are responsible to learn all content from one another.
When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Watch jigsaw in action

Go inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe her students use the jigsaw strategy to understand the topic of gardening more deeply and share what they have learned. Joanne Meier, our research director, introduces the strategy and talks about the importance of advanced planning and organization to make this strategy really effective.

Examples

Learn how to use the jigsaw strategy across different content areas, including author studies, writing, and math.

See example >

Learn how one teacher used jigsaw to help her students develop their own definition of a fairy tale, and how her students responded to the self-directed activity.

See example >

Visit the Jigsaw Classroom, a site dedicated to teaching teachers how to use jigsaw to "reduce racial conflict among school children, promote better learning, improve student motivation, and increase enjoyment of the learning experience." It also covers how teachers can facilitate the strategy with several different types of learners.

See example >

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners

  • Give students experience with small group learning skills before participating in the jigsaw strategy.
  • Have students fill out a graphic organizer in the "home group" to gather all the information presented by each "expert."
  • "Home groups" can present results to the entire class, or they may participate in some assessment activity.
  • Circulate to ensure that groups are on task and managing their work well; ask groups to stop and think about how they are checking for everyone's understanding and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard; and
  • Monitor the comprehension of the group members by asking questions and rephrasing information until it is clear that all group members understand the points.

See the research that supports this strategy

AdLit.org. (2008). Jigsaw.

Aronson, E. (2000-2008). Jigsaw Classroom: Overview of the technique.

Aronson, E., & Goode, E. (1980). Training teachers to implement jigsaw learning: A manual for teachers. In S. Sharan, P. Hare, C. Webb, and R. Hertz-Lazarowitz (Eds.), Cooperation in Education (pp. 47-81). Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.

Aronson, E., & Patnoe, S. (1997). The jigsaw classroom: Building cooperation in the classroom (2nd ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Clarke, J. (1994). Pieces of the puzzle: The jigsaw method. In S. Sharan (Ed.), Handbook of cooperative learning methods. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.

Colorín Colorado. (2007). Cooperative Learning Strategies.

Muskingum College, Center for Advancement and Learning (CAL). (n.d.)

Slavin, R. E. (1980). Cooperative learning in teams: State of the art. Educational Psychologist, 15, 93-111.

Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Tierney, R. (1995) Reading Strategies and Practices. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Why Are the Ice Caps Melting?

Why Are the Ice Caps Melting?

An easier to understand glimpse at the causes of global warming and concrete actions which children can take to improve the situation. (Let's Read & Find Out Science series)

Earth Day — Hooray

Earth Day — Hooray

With Earth Day on the way, the Maple Street School kids collect cans to plant flowers and work toward helping the planet.

Face to Face with Polar Bears

Face to Face with Polar Bears

Norbert Rising finds himself in dangerous situations in the Arctic as he studies polar bears. This book connects children with the consequences of global warming, and gives practical advice on how to help save our white-furred friends.

Comments

Watching this video gives me a lot of inspiration of how to come up with my "large" class. jigsaw reading enables the students to experience a joyful learning atmosphere. thanks!

watching this video help me alot as a student in my different learing strategy. thanks!!

Thanks for this! I was a bit confused about the difference between "home" groups and "expert" groups and how they would be formed, but this definitely helped!

I am interested in jigsaw reading. Thanks for giving me some ideas about it. If there are some examples for the ESL students that will be perfect.

Great demo of an effective jigsaw, so easy and yet so effective. Student engagement high.

I had misunderstood how Jigsaw worked before watching this video. The fact that the home group is all reading different texts was my first missing step. I had each table group reading a different chapter and then split into expert groups to share what they learned in that chapter. The method shown here allows all the kids who have read the same chapter to confer and dig deeper into the material before returning to their home group as the expert...This allows for more repetition and a deeper understanding of the material and makes so much more sense. I really wanted to see the graphic organizers and questions on the sheets.

I showed the teaching video to my grade 2 students and we examined through the conceptual lens of form, function and causation. They were able to then develop a bigger idea of how the collaborative strategies in jigsaw readings helped them personally. Because they had this big idea and had seen and discussed the example in the video, they were able to take action and use jigsaw readings in lots of places. I didn't end to micromanage at any stage. This was with a mixed ability, mixed language class in an international school in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl