Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Fun Twist on the Jigsaw

Like every teacher in the universe, I am constantly searching for review activities that are both engaging and effective. I have played with the idea of a jigsaw before, but have struggled with engagement in my lower-level classes when the students returned to their home group to teach each other.

Nothing much was different about the setup this time - students in my classes sit in groups of 3-4, and so each "home group" got split up and students joined one of four groups, each of which was responsible for mastering a particular review problem. The small twist came when students returned to their home groups. They had about 10 minutes per problem to work through a packet that contained the 4 different problems that the different groups had mastered. However, during the 10 minutes when a student's group was working on the problem that they had already mastered, instead of doing the problem himself and just serving as a "resource" (the approach that had led to disengagement and non-ideal group work in the past), that student actually had to STAND UP and circulate around the group just as I would during independent practice. We modeled what this would look like beforehand, which the "teacher" closely monitoring all other students' work, watching for errors, and asking guiding questions if a student got stuck.

There was something about the physical aspect of standing up that completely changed the dynamic of this activity from a thinly veiled guise for getting students to simply to more practice problems, into an opportunity for each student to delve more deeply into the intricacies involved with actually "teaching" a problem and identifying common errors. For me, it was incredibly fun to watch my students - especially the lower-performing students who don't typically take on a teaching role in class - hover over each other, get frustrated at their peers for not understanding and themselves for not being able to explain something as well as they thought they could, and then ultimately figure out what exactly was confusing their "student."

Overall, I really liked the accountability that was built into this activity. One other nice (and rather selfish) unexpected consequence was that students all commented on how "hard it is to teach something without giving away the answer" -- I couldn't agree more!


  1. I also enjoy using jigsaw. When I'm working at a tutorial center, I always plan ahead and think of different activities that can be effective and engaging.