Jigsaw Discussions

Deepen student comprehension asking students to teach what they have learned to their peers
196 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.

Jigsaw For Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Jigsaw discussions are a powerful learning tool in distance learning as they provide ways for students to engage in a structured discussion together about a text, and they afford teachers an opportunity to formatively assess students' understanding of texts. 

Implementation steps:

  1. As you would in a traditional setting, determine the text students will read and break the text into sections. Determine how students will digitally read the text. Consider: 

    • A shared Google document 

    • Using GoFormative 

    • Sharing a text on your learning platform, such as edPuzzle or SeeSaw. 

    • Creating a video using Loom or an audio using Talk and Comment of you reading the entire text aloud to support struggling readers or encouraging students to use Natural Reader. 

  2. Place students in "home groups"  and assign "experts" for each section of the text. Explain directions for students, including any notes or graphic organizers to be completed. In addition to written directions, consider video directions using Loom or Screencastify, especially if students will complete this task asynchronously.

  3. To complete this task in a synchronous video session: 

    • Put students into breakout rooms with their "experts" (other students assigned to read the same section of text as them). 

    • In their breakout room, students will read the text and complete any associated questions or graphic organizers. 

    • Bring students back together from their expert groups and now place them into their "home groups" using the breakout room feature. Give directions for students to complete any graphic organizer or notes. 

    • Other options to complete this synchronously without the use of breakout rooms include students working off of a shared Google document or using a Padlet.  

  4. To complete this task in an asynchronous format: 

    • Create a shared Google document with the text and notes/questions for all members of the "expert" group to collaborate on together. Create a deadline for students to read the text and add their notes. In their "expert group", students could also be responsible for sharing their notes into a document for their "home group," creating a short Loom explaining their section of the text, or posting to a FlipGrid or Padlet about their text. 

    • You can also use Google Slides for groups to collaborate. See the resource below for a jigsaw template. 

    • Have "home groups" read the notes or watch videos from all the experts and post a reflection on FlipGrid or Padlet or complete a Google Form. 

  5. Consider having students reflect on the jigsaw process in a distance learning setting with a FlipGrid or a Google Form. 

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?

Coach Tips

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