Jigsaw Discussions

Deepen student comprehension asking students to teach what they have learned to their peers
136 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

A Jigsaw is a collaborative group structure that distributes work across students and provides students with the opportunity to be an expert for their peers in order to deepen comprehension and increase engagement. During a Jigsaw, students read a portion of text that is assigned to them, annotate and close read, and then summarize and share their learnings with a small group of peers. It is often used with a longer text, but can we used for math problems, images, and even movement. The strategy can be used to introduce new material, during a unit of study or for an assessment review. The desired outcome is that students will engage in critical thinking, and have deeper retention and comprehension because they are teaching their portion of the material to each other. The strategy is effective because it is student-centered, and provides students with an opportunity to take ownership over their learning. The strategy holds them accountable both to themselves and their peers.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
  1. Select the text students will read.

  2. Break up the text into sections.

  3. Place students in groups so that the number of students is the same as the number of sections.

  4. Assign each student in the group a different section to read

  5. Students close read their assigned section and then summarize it independently. You can give students an annotation framework and/or a graphic organizer to complete to support their close reading and hold them accountable.

  6. Students meet in an Expert Group with peers who are assigned the same section to read and summarize in order to compare their notes and come to a group consensus on the summary of the section

  7. Students return to their original groups, and take turns summarizing their section of the text in chronological order, and then discuss the text as a whole.

Jigsaw Review

Before an assessment, a Review Jigsaw can support students to review the material and teach it to each other.

Implementation Steps:

  • Identify the materials that students will need to review before the assessment and/or create the review materials.
  • Create a graphic organizer to support students to collect information to share with their peers and to document the information they receive from their peers.

  • Follow the Jigsaw strategy steps as outlined above.

Textual Analysis Jigsaw

In this Jigsaw variation, students read the same text, but are each assigned a different literary element to closely read and annotate for. As the expert for their literary element, the students share with each other what they noticed and learned.

Implementation Steps:

  • Assign all students the same text to read. For example: Chapter two in the novel.
  • Divide your students into small groups and provide a purpose for their reading: Example: provide each group with a different claim and ask them to gather evidence to support that claim.

  • Rearrange students into new groups.

  • Each student in the group shares their claim and evidence and students discuss.

  • Other options: Jigsaw literary elements

Math Jigsaw

You can use the Jigsaw structure to support students to solve Math problems and explain their thinking to their peers.

Implementation steps for this specific purpose/use:

  • Divide your students into small groups to master a problem.

  • Rearrange students into new groups.

  • Each student in the group teaches the group his or her problem.

Science Jigsaw

You can use the Jigsaw structure to support students to become explore and research a topic. They can then share that expertise with their peers, and use that expertise to revisit their hypothesis, look at data, and draw conclusions.

Implementation Steps:

  • Break the material into topics.
  • Provide students with a graphic organizer to record their findings and their classmates.

  • Divide your students into small groups to master a topic.

  • Rearrange students into new groups.

  • Each student in the group shares his or her information and adds to the graphic organizers.

Special Education Modification

Students with learning disabilities that impact their reading or speaking skills may benefit from using a graphic organizer with sentence stems to help them summarize their ideas before sharing with the group.

EL Modification

English Learners may benefit from using an annotated or leveled version of the text to better support their vocabulary acquisition. Alternatively, consider providing English Learners with an audio version of the text so that they can have the text read to them. 

Questions to Consider

  • How can you use strategic grouping to differentiate instruction in the Jigsaw?

  • What skills do students need to have in order to successfully participate in a Jigsaw?

  • What scaffolds are needed in order to support students to successfully participate in a Jigsaw?

Julie's Tips for Jigsaw

Julie Mason
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Group students strategically according to reading level, and select a text that will challenge those students.

Provide students scaffolds like a guided writing frame to support them to summarize their portion of the text (example below).

Consider giving students the text the night before so the Jigsaw won't be their first read, and they can preview the material before having to engage in the jigsaw.

Research Base