Jigsaw: Developing Community and Disseminating Knowledge

Rationale

The Jigsaw strategy asks a group of students to become “experts” on a specific text or body of knowledge and then share that material with another group of students. This strategy offers a way to help students understand and retain information while they develop their collaboration skills. Because students know they will be responsible for teaching the new content to their peers, they often feel more accountable for learning the material. The Jigsaw strategy is most effective when students know that they will be using the information they have learned from each other to create a final product, participate in a class discussion, or acquire material that will be on a test.

Procedure

  1. Prepare the Activity
    Select the material you want students to explore. It might be a collection of documents (e.g., readings, images, charts), or it could be a series of questions. Also, decide how many students you would like to work together in each “expert” group. Teachers often find that groups of three to five students work best. Sometimes it makes sense to form groups randomly (e.g., by counting off), while other times you might want to divide students in advance to balance strengths, needs, and interests. You can assign the same material to more than one group.
  2. Students Work in Expert Groups
    In this step, small groups of students (“experts”) are responsible for reviewing specific material so that they can share this information with their peers. “Expert” groups work best when students have clear expectations about the type of information they are supposed to present to their peers. Therefore, it is often helpful to provide a chart or a series of questions that students answer together in their expert groups. It is important that all group members understand the material they are responsible for presenting. To avoid having students present inaccurate or misleading information, teachers can review and approve of content before this information is shared with students in the other groups.
  3. Students Meet in Teaching Groups
    After “expert” groups have a solid understanding of the material they will be presenting, assign students to “teaching” groups. “Teaching” groups are typically composed of one or two members from each expert group. Experts take turns presenting information. Often teachers ask students to take notes while the experts present. For greater accountability, it is best if students are required to synthesize the material presented as part of an assignment, presentation, or discussion.
  4. Students Synthesize and Reflect
    “Teaching” groups can be assigned a task that requires them to synthesize the information that has been shared, such as answering a larger question, comparing texts, or generating a plan of action. Students could also synthesize information individually or in pairs. It is appropriate to structure a class discussion that asks students to draw on the material they just learned to answer a question about history and apply this information to society today.

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