Putting the Pieces Together

Like that of a classic wooden jigsaw puzzle, the Jigsaw Method is an educational method of assembling a bigger picture through multiple smaller, but interconnecting parts. As the name states, this is not a tool, but a method. It doesn’t require any printouts, tech, or preparation aside from with the creation of the puzzle pieces themselves, and the know how of following it’s process as an educator. 

In it’s most basic form, the Jigsaw Method is a teaching technique that involves dividing up portions of interconnected content, putting students into groups, then assigning one student from each group to one specific divided piece of content. Once the student learns this piece, they gather in a group of the other students who looked over that same portion of content, and compare results with their peers. Afterwards, the groups break once more, going back to their original groups, where each student now acts as an expert over their specific content area. They present their own understandings to the group at large, the group takes notes on each topic, and all groups complete an assessment of the content individually after presentations finish. Students in the Jigsaw Method become experts within a certain area, and piece the content together as a group! It’s an amazing example of social learning and understanding among student peers, and makes life on the teacher much easier in regards to lecture and in class responsibility. 

This teaching method reflects educational theories of social learning, and promotes making students into experts on specific topics to teach their peers about what they learned for the sake of understanding a larger assignment with much less work on the individual student. I personally employ this method of teaching, even with younger age groups, as I feel that students learning from other students is seen as more genuine and uncommon, and sticks with students much more than advice or lecture from a teacher might. 


My Experience

The Jigsaw Method is something within educational settings that I’ve both seen as a student, and used as a teacher. As a student, I’ve done every step of the method, and can safely say from my own experience that as a student, this method does seem to work well in terms of pushing students towards mastery of a topic on the case of social need. As a teacher, I’ve also seen similar results. Within my classroom, while my class at the time was fairly small, and my students only around the ages of 6-7, I’ve always observed that students of any age tend to learn best when it comes from a friend over a teacher. Students within any given grade all share the same sort of developmental level and level of understanding within a topic. So when one of them masters or understands a topic, they can more easily show others how they got it. They become masters of the content, and teach it to their peers in ways teachers may not think of. 

How to Run an Activity with the Jigsaw Method

Step 1

Decide your Groups and Content Areas

Before you begin with the activity, some pre-planning is required to make it work. Know the number of students in your room, and find a number for groups that can evenly divide the space to a select number of content. An example of this would be that in a class of 25, you have 5 groups of 5. Or in a class of 24, you can have 4 groups of 6, or 6 groups of 4. Whatever number of students in each group, you will use that number to determine how you break down the content, and should match the number of students in each group, to the number of content subdivisions.

You also should remember that this content needs to be relevant, but not the exact same content area.

Example: When learning about rocks with 4 students in each group, you can have 4 content areas to learn. Igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks, and erosion..

Step 2

Independent Group Work

Once you have your content areas and groups of students, you want to put your content to numbers, and create a worksheet to show understanding of not just the specific topics, but the main content as a whole. In class, the next steps for this would be to: 

  1. Give each student within each group a unique number 1 to the number of students within the group total. 
  2. Explain the task or content area each student of each number will need to look into
  3. Allow students to work within their groups to investigate their own content areas.

Step 3

Same Number Groups Mastery Check

After students look around for the informationrelavant to the content of their number, in the instance soemone may not do all the work, or may not fully understand everything, students do not reconvine with their initial groups now, but with their number groups. All the students who shared the same number with them should be placed together in a group now to figure out the gaps in their understandings, and ask questions to their peers as they all teach eachother about the area they just studied.

This portion of the jigsaw method is designed to help check for mastery within those little masters of content as they learn and compare understabndings on the assigned content and topic. It does the job of answering questions the teacher normally would, but in a way that students have opprotunity to fix. By all means however, if you see one group struggling, as a teacher you can always come over and check in to offer some helpful words or answer a question. As students do this, as the educator, walking around and making sure everything is going well may be key to the last step in this jigsaw method.

Step 4

Presenting Understandings / Mastery of Other Topics Check

At this point, now we know that our students are masters at a certain area of the content, but they don’t know it all. For them to fully understand the content, they must again be gathered in their initial groups as means to present this information they’ve learned. As students with the group listen to each member speak, they take turns, and take notes on the speakers understandings, and use this to solve the worksheet associated with the whole puzzle of the content. Rather than just learn it all at once, they get the information in a way that helps them master part of it, and learn the rest from friends. 

Once their work is handed in, that’s it! you’ve completed using the jigsaw method as an activity in class!