Classroom Management: Why I Love a Good Jigsaw

Classroom Management: Why I Love A Good Jigsaw

Students moving around the room, talking to each other, sharing information, and teaching their peers—it’s sort of a teacher’s dream, and it’s what happens when I do a jigsaw activity with my students.

I use a jigsaw in three of my content-heavy resources: my Fake News and Digital Literacy Unit, my Growth Mindset Unit, and my Elements of Poetry Unit.

Classroom Management: Why I Love A Good Jigsaw

The basic idea of a jigsaw is that students learn a piece of the content and then teach that to their classmates.  This is the process.

  1. First, they break up into groups.  I tend to let them make their own groups, but this would depend on the class.
  2. In those small groups, they master one small piece of content. So each group of students might learn how to verify a tweet, why Malala Yousafzai succeeded because of her growth mindset, or how syntax functions to create meaning in a poem.
  3. Then they teach what they have learned.  This exchange of content usually means simply finding peers to help them learn what they need to know.  If I have time, it might take the form of a more formal presentation with visuals or a skit or video.  Students generally have a chart to fill out with all of the information that they gain from their peers.
  4. Finally, students do something with the information that they have gained.  This might be a quiz on all of the material or an essay explaining what they have learned or just a freewrite to compare and contrast.

If I haven’t convinced you yet to try a jigsaw activity in class, these are the reasons why I love a good jigsaw.

Everyone likes charts.  Students feel accomplished and in control when they have a neat organized chart to fill out.  This isn’t something that I would do every day, but it is a great addition to their notebooks and a nice way to organize as well as to compare and contrast content.  Then, when they need to refer back to the information for an essay or to study for a quiz, they have it all there in a neat and organized way.

Teaching helps us learn  There are few things that beat the sight of students explaining a new concept to each other.  When students become the teachers, they master the material in a way that they never would as passive receivers of knowledge.  They take control and make it their own, and when they look for new ways to explain to a struggling classmate, they understand it on a whole new level.

I get them out of their seats and talking to new people.  One of my main goals as a teacher is to get students out of their comfort zone.  Most of my students could easily talk to the same one or two classmates every day.  They need a little push to move around and talk to kids on the other side of the room, but when they have it, they enjoy the process.

I can move around the room, checking in with different groups.  I love a good full-class discussion, but I also love having the chance to talk one-on-one with students about their work.  When they are engaged with an activity like a jigsaw, I get the chance to circulate about, checking in for understanding or just to chat for a few minutes with different groups.  I get to know students in a new and more informal way, which I always enjoy.

In the end, students get a lot of content and they don’t have to sit passively through a lecture or powerpoint.  I am always looking for ways to empower students to find their own answers, and the jigsaw is a great way to put the onus on them.

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