Primary School Tips how Jigsaws can help Reading

How does the concept of a jigsaw puzzle benefit student reading comprehension? It is easy. A child is assigned to a specific “home group”, where everyone is distributed the same material (the big picture), but instructed to read only one section, or paragraph, or chapter (the puzzle piece), depending on the age and ability of the student.

After reading the selection, and answering specific questions about their section, the students are dispersed to “expert groups”. In these groups, students have all read the same material. They have all answered the same questions. Here, they share their answers and discuss them. Some may disagree on the right answer, some may realize they were incorrect in their thinking, some may convince others to change their answers based on logical reasoning. These critical thinking skills are the driving force behind the jigsaw strategy for reading comprehension.

The website defines jigsaw as “a group learning method in which individuals within the group each study different aspects or pieces of a topic then  come together to teach one another about what they learned, ultimately resulting in the entire group learning about all of the studied aspects of the topic.”

What are students saying?

“It brings the lessons to life.”

“I like being able to ask other students what they think about a topic.”

“It breaks up the amount of work you have to do so it doesn’t seem so hard.”

What are teachers saying?

“You have to have good classroom management skills for jigsaw lessons to be successful.”

“Students don’t always know what to do because the teacher isn’t correcting them when they get a wrong answer. They are able to discuss it with other members of the group, and are given chances to persuade others to agree with them.”

“Students are retaining more of the information they are getting because they are responsible for teaching it to others.”

In addition to the benefits listed above, the jigsaw strategy also helps students learn cooperation, sharing of ideas, and it helps to develop critical thinking and listening skills.

At All about Adolescent Literacy ( the basic steps for developing a lesson using the jigsaw strategy are:

Explain to students that they will participate in teaching their classmate parts of the reading material for the day’s assignment.

Separate students into groups of 3-5, these groups are know as “Home Groups”. [It is helpful to use colored index cards, numbered 1-5, according to the number of students in the group. One color for each “Home Group” and one number for each “Expert Group”]

Assign each student a reading passage from the select text.

After students have read their assigned passage in “Home Group”, they will be dispersed to their “Expert Groups” (number on index card). Here  they will talk with other students who have read the same passage, and discuss the answers to key questions.

Help students to stay on task by providing time management strategies for transitions.

Provide Expert Groups with key questions to answer regarding the passages they read during Home Group

Monitor “Expert Groups” for accuracy while discussing answers to questions.

Discuss rules for reconvening into “Home Group”. Each member is responsible for teaching the others what they learned during “Expert Group”.

Provide graphic organizers for students to use to record information from each expert. Remind students that all “Home Group” members are responsible for learning all content from one another.

Bring entire class together to discuss what was learned throughout the lesson. Have students share experiences with each group. Discuss what students reported and who reported it, assessing how individuals were able to use what they learned from others to understand the material.

You begin by dividing an entire class into smaller groups of 3-5 students, Distribute material to be learned by everyone in the class. You have students concentrate on one specific area of information, to break up a large passage of reading material. Then you send those students off to find others who have had experience with the same material. After discussing their findings, students return to the home group to report what he or she has discovered; all the puzzle pieces fit together nicely.

While it takes some effort on the teacher’s part to prepare for a jigsaw lesson: dividing students into groups, finding passages that fit the model, and creating graphic organizers to go along with the lessons, the benefits far outweigh the preparation efforts, making teaching and learning more rewarding.