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small group of students putting large puzzle pieces together

Reading and Writing Strategies


The Jigsaw strategy divides large amounts of text into manageable chunks that students work collaboratively to understand and explain to their classmates. It’s interactive, purposeful (e.g. read to become an expert), promotes student-led discussions, and is a fun way to learn!

Jigsaw is a strategy that emphasizes cooperative learning by providing students an opportunity to actively help each other build comprehension. Use this technique to assign students to reading groups composed of varying skill levels. Each group member is responsible for becoming an “expert” on one section of the assigned material and then “teaching” it to the other members of the team. 

Why use the Jigsaw strategy?

Jigsaw is a well-established method for encouraging collaborative sharing and learning of content. This technique can be used as an instructional activity across several days and is best to use when there is a large amount of content to teach. Students love that they have the opportunity to focus on a smaller amount of text to read and present to their groups and teachers love that students work together to problem solve and build each other’s understanding of the whole text.

How to create and use the strategy

  1. Download and use our Jigsaw template (fillable pdf).
  2. introduce the Jigsaw method and the topic to be studied. 
  3. Assign each student to a “home group” of 3-5 students. Each member of the “home group” will be assigned a section of selection of text to read that is different than the other “home group” members’ selections.
  4. Determine a set of reading selections and assign one selection to each student. 
  5. Create “expert groups” that consist of students across “home groups” who will read the same selection.
  6. Students begin by reading their assigned selection within a given amount of time.
  7. Next, students meet with their “expert group” to discuss the selection they all read and what key points to share with their “home group” members. Providing key questions for the “expert groups” consider, helps them to efficiently gather information from their reading.
  8. Finally, students return to their “home groups” to share the information in which they have become an “expert”. Each student takes turns teaching what he or she has learned to the other “home group” members. Remind students that “home group” members are responsible to learn all content from one another.

Strategy in action

Let’s watch as a middle school math class uses the Jigsaw strategy.

Tips for success

  1. It is important that students have experience with small group learning skills before participating in the jigsaw strategy.
  2. Consider what students can work on if they complete their reading and notes before their “expert group” convenes because there are always faster and slower readers in a class
  3. While groups are meeting, make sure you circulate to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and all group members’ understanding is clear.

  4. If appropriate, have students fill out a graphic organizer in the “home group” to gather all the information presented by each “expert.” “Home groups” then present results to the entire class, or they may participate in some assessment activity. Teachers may assign a team grade based upon academic and cooperative performance.