Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Using Jigsaw to Teach Nonfiction Genres

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning activity in which students become experts on a topic, and then teach their classmates about that topic. While Jigsaw sounds wonderful in theory, I've found the logistics to be somewhat difficult. It's tough to get everything together! And a Jigsaw that falls apart is not an effective learning activity.

Here are the things needed for a successful Jigsaw:
-The right topic. With intermediate learners, Jigsaw really doesn't work that well with deep, difficult topics. Instead, I've found that it works best to give students an overview of various items within a category--for example, nonfiction genres.
-Student directions. Students need to have a clear explanation of the activity.
-Expert sheets. While high school teachers probably do well with having students split up a reading, I've found that I need to give each of the expert groups an individual page with the content to be taught.
-Note-taking sheets. Students at this age don't have much experience with taking notes. By giving them note-taking sheets for each segment of the activity, I can focus their attention on what I want them to learn.
-Quiz. A quiz at the end helps students to realize that the goal in Jigsaw is to learn. I like to allow students to use notes to take the quiz, as this reinforces the reason for taking notes.
-Reflection. Students need to reflect on their two roles in Jigsaw--expert and learner.

With all that's needed, I have to admit that I am a little reluctant to use Jigsaw frequently. This year, however, I did have success with teaching nonfiction genres through the Jigsaw format. I posted the activity over at TeachersPayTeachers.


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