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Jigsaw Activity

Description of Lesson: In a typical jigsaw activity, students are given a topic on which to become an expert, either individually or as part of a group. The student or group of students then teaches the material to the rest of the class. This is usually done by having the students redistribute into new groups with one expert from each topic present in each of the new groups. The new group then takes turns teaching each other the materials for which each individual is an expert. Alternatively, the expert group might be responsible for active participation while the instructor leads a discussion of the material for which they are experts.

Appropriate Content Areas: All. Less common in mathematics but still appropriate.

NASA. Infrared Yellowstone lesson. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from InvYNP_day3.html, although designed for a f2f classroom, this provides a good example.

SERC portal for Educators, retrieved March 4, 2015, from Two jigsaw examples lie at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of length and complexity and also illustrate just how versatile the jigsaw technique is.

Goals & Objectives:

The goal of a jigsaw activity is generally to give students responsibility and control over their own learning. Sample objectives include:

During and after performing the Jigsaw activity, students will...

  • develop expert knowledge of a given concept,
  • teach a given concept to other students,
  • integrate a collection of concepts into a topic level understanding determined by successfully attending to 80% of rubric items.



Materials and Resources:

The instructor provides the instructions.

Guiding Questions for this Lesson:

The student would have two primary guiding questions. What can I learn about concept x? How can I instruct the rest of my group most effectively about concept x?

Lesson Outline and Procedure:

If performed asynchronously:

  1. Students complete the readings for the given activity. (usually 2-3 days of activity)
  2. Students are divided into groups so that ability levels and interests are evenly distributed across groups. Each group typically has about 5 members.
  3. Then:
    • Students choose a topic from a group of 5 topics (This activity can occur while they complete the readings), or
    • The instructor assigns students one of 5 topics.
  4. Students then separate from their initial group and are added to an 'expert' group of students from each initial group with the same topic selection.
  5. As an 'expert' group, the students plan how to instruct their initial group on the given topic. (2-3 days asynchronously. Some of this time may overlap with the time to complete readings.)
  6. The students then reconvene into their initial groups.
  7. The students instruct their initial group in the various topics, asking questions and discussing the topic within their group. (3 days)
  8. The instructor provides closure by summing up discussions and presenting any missed points.


What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs?


If the students are familiar with the technique and adequate instruction is given, a jigsaw activity can be performed in a 30-minute synchronous session. In such a session, the students should have been divided into groups and been given their 'expert' topic prior to the synchronous session. The students would then each have 5-8 minutes to explain their topic to the group. A follow-up time of at least 10 minutes should be provided in a full class group.

Asynchronously, a jigsaw activity can be completed in 3 days or less.

Ideas for Lesson Evaluation and Teacher Reflection:

How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness and learning accomplished through such activities. Also, the conversation that occurs during the activity will help gauge how the students are enjoying various aspects and whether they are learning and/or participating.

Questions the instructor should ask when evaluating the lesson include: Were the students engaged in efficiently working towards a solution? What are the alternative explanations?

How was student learning verified? Participation can be assessed in discussion sessions and communications archives. A rubric can also be set up to help gauge the quality of final proposals and the process by which the final solution was reached.

Additional Readings and Resources: (in no way an all-inclusive list)

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