Implementing the Amazing Jigsaw Teaching Strategy with English Learners

Jigsaw Teaching Strategy for Teaching ELLs

Duration: 20-30 minutes

Type: Partners/Small Groups

What You Will Need for the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy

  1. Concept or Text That Can Be Broken Up Into Sections
  2. Clear Instructions for Independent Group Work
  3. Sentence Stems for Guiding Responses

Overview of the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy

In this activity, you split up a concept or text into different sections. Students split up into small groups. Each group tackles a particular section of the concept or text. After becoming ‘experts’ on the content their group was assigned, the groups all reorganize into new groups where each group has at least one ‘expert’ on each section of the concept or text. The ‘experts’ take turns teaching everyone else in the group on their particular section. The students consolidate the information from each expert into a whole picture, much like putting together the different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Step-by-Step Instructions for the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy

  1. Split up a concept or a text into different meaningful parts. The number of parts is flexible, but this activity works particularly well when the number of parts equals the number of groups you can create with your students.
  2. Split the students up into groups.
  3. I always recommend smaller groups of 2-3 if possible since it requires each student to participate more and fewer students are sitting around waiting.
  4. Assign each group a part from your concept or text.
  5. The group reads, studies, discusses their part as needed to become ‘experts’ on that section.
  6. It’s particularly helpful to have students take notes, define key words, draw illustrations, etc.
  7. The members of each group should practice explaining their part of the concept or text with the other members of their group to make sure they can explain it clearly using any notes, definitions or illustrations they’ve created.
  8. Sentence stems are a helpful tool to guide students in a well-formed academic response.
  9. After all of the members of a group have become ‘experts,’ the groups all separate and reorganize in such a way that each group has at least one ‘expert’ on each section or part of the concept or text you’re working on.
  10. The new members of each group take turns going around explaining their part or section of the concept or text to the other members of the group using sentence stems, notes, definitions, and illustrations.
  11. Each member takes notes and consolidates the information into a whole picture of the concept or text, much like putting together the different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
  12. After completing this process, students can then complete a writing assignment on the concept or text incorporating all of the information they’ve learned.

Benefits of the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy

  • This is a great way to break up long difficult texts for English learners. They get some great reading practice but aren’t required to read the entire passage in order to get an understanding of all the content.
  • This activity requires all students to practice their academic speaking.
  • This works as an informal assessment of your students’ abilities since you can easily walk around the room and check-in to see how each student is getting along and whether more or fewer scaffolds are needed.
  • The student-centered nature of the activity means students are more motivated and engaged and more students are proactively involved at the same time rather than sitting around waiting.
  • Teaching is an incredible way for students to learn and better retain new information and sharpen their critical thinking and communication skills.

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

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