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Active Learning Strategies

The Jigsaw

Author, Scott Filkens, member of the National Council of Teachers of English, excerpted from

As with any cooperative learning process, this technique begins with instructor modeling.

  1. Explain to students that they will be working in different groups to learn content: a jigsaw or home group, made up of students who have read different texts, and an expert group that all reads the same text. (Each member of a home group will have something unique to bring from their expert group.)
  2. Then, with a piece of text appropriate for your group of students, read and think-aloud as if you are working in an expert group, focusing on thought processes such as:
    • How can I put these ideas into my own words?
    • What connections do I see between this material and things we’ve already learned, or from my own life?
    • How will I tell the members of my jigsaw, or home, group about this material?
  3. To prepare students for returning to their home, or jigsaw, group, demonstrate thinking they can use to monitor their performance there:
    • Is what I’m saying helping the others learn the material?
    • Are people understanding what I’m saying and making connections between their reading and mine?
  4. Based on your knowledge of the students in your class, organize a set of texts that students will read in their expert groups and report on to their home groups. You may wish to find texts that complement each other, but offer varying challenges in difficulty. It may be useful to assemble a text set that offers contrasting views on the same topic. Or, your learning goals may lead you to select text that offer information on various facets of a concept that will become clear only when students come together in their home groups after working with their expert groups (such as three books, each about one of the states of matter).
  5. Organize students in their home or jigsaw groups and share with them the learning goal or guiding question for the lesson. Remind them of the modeling they saw.
  6. Re-organize students into their expert groups. You may find it useful to use numbers for home groups and letters for expert groups (student 3-B for example, will read text B with a group of students and then report back to group 3, where a student has read text A, C, D, and E). Students in the expert group should read the text and make sure everyone has a strong enough understanding to share with their home groups. It may be a good idea for students to produce a written summary or short list of ideas they plan to take back.
  7. Throughout the jigsaw process, circulate the room and observe the groups as they read and discuss. When you notice difficulties, try to put the responsibility for finding a solution back on students to enhance the cooperative benefits of jigsawing.
  8. Reconvene the home groups and ask students to share their expertise with one another. Students should write about the way their expert knowledge was changed or enhanced by listening to their peers.


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