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 AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY American education has been in a state of crisis for almost as long as we can remember. This has ...»

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Another limitation involving subject matter has to do with a reading assignment which is cumulatively interwoven, by which we mean that because of the nature of the material it would be difficult to understand part three without having first read and understood parts one and two. Thus while it is easy to grasp Joseph Pulitzer's middle years without knowing about his childhood and young adulthood, it would be far more difficult to make sense out of Chapter 3 of a detective story without having first read Chapters 1 and 2. Accordingly, if you were a fifth-grader and you were assigned part three of a story or subject matter that is, by its very nature, cumulatively interwoven, chances are you would not be able to grasp its meaning sufficiently well to communicate it

meaningfully to members of your jigsaw group. This is the key to adapting curriculum for jigsaw:

whatever material is used must be divided into coherent segments that can be distributed to members of the jigsaw group. That is, an individual piece of the lesson must be understandable to a student without knowledge of the other portions given to his groupmates.

It is advisable for the teacher to include in her weekly lesson planning the material to be covered daily in the jigsaw group and to provide additional time for curriculum preparation. Homework assignments and material to supplement the basic lesson should also be organized well in advance.


Almost any study material can be used for the construction of jigsaw cards. Four-by-six-inch index cards seem to be first choice. If the information is from a textbook, pages can be copied from books or other resources and glued onto the index cards with rubber cement. Pictures or other relevant material can be glued to the back of the card.

Rather than letting students pick their own cards (sometimes they will pick the one that is prettiest or has the least amount of writing) the teacher might want to pencil each student's name at the top of his card. This also helps the teacher balance the groups (including the expert groups) since she knows ahead of time who will have each part.

JIGSAW BASICS !18 To provide for maximum interdependence among group members, each student should have access to other parts of the lesson only through other groups members. Clearly, if a student has already had experience with the lesson material, he will be less dependent on listening to his groupmates to learn that material.1 If standard texts are used, the material must be cut out or reproduced, divided, and the texts collected and stored.

The amount of material used and how it is broken up are both important aspects of curriculum preparation for jigsaw. In the first few weeks, students are still adjusting to the process as well as learning content material. We suggest that at least initially the amount of information be kept quite light. After two weeks the work load can be gradually increased until a full load is reached. We have found that time lost early in the press is made up later - with interest.

How much material constitutes a full load? In our experience students can be given as much or more material using jigsaw as when using traditional teaching methods. Even when a large amount of material is to be mastered, the students seem to rise to the occasion.

The decision about how much material should be contained on each card is a particularly important one. If there is consistently too little material, there will be little challenge for the students, and they will quickly become bored with the process. On the other hand, if there is too much material, it will be difficult to cover all parts within the allotted time; this is bound to be a frustrating experience for the group. One way to avoid these extremes is equating the jigsaw cards for the number of important facts that each card contains. Thus one student may read three paragraphs and another five, but they will both be responsible for the same number of important facts. Using this method results in a student's work load varying from day to day, but we have not found this to impede the successful working of the group.

An additional policy we have found helpful is breaking up material so that a separate subject is covered each day of jigsawing (Monday - geography of China; Tuesday - Chinese family structure; and 1 Robert Slavin has devised an alternative jigsaw method which he calls Jigsaw II. As with the original jigsaw, group members in Slavin's adaptation also become experts on one part of the material, meet in counterpart groups, and are responsible for their group members learning that portion of the material. However, in Jigsaw II, all students in the group read the entire assignment rather than having to depend solely on group members for the information. Group members then take individual test on the material, the results of which contribute to a team score.

–  –  –


If a class is to use jigsaw an hour a day, twenty minutes of the hour should be spent in expert groups and the remaining forty minutes in the jigsaw group. At the beginning of the hour, students gather in their jigsaw groups to receive their paragraphs and any special instructions from their group leader. They then break into expert groups (consisting of those students with identical paragraphs) to plan their presentation.

Once in the expert group the students first read their cards. It is helpful to the poor readers if one person reads the card aloud. Then group members start helping each other understand the material on the card. They work on meanings of words, think up examples to explain things, and so forth. Students can ask questions about anything that is unclear. Students who grasp the material quickly are a vital resource in helping slower students learn the material. When everybody understands the information on the card, the group decides how to teach the material to the jigsaw groups. Expert group members thus get an idea of how the others are planning to present, hear some suggestions that may aid their own presentation, and give each other constructive feedback.

Expert groups have additional advantages. Even the brightest student is stimulated by the questions, examples, and trial presentations of his experts. The expert group may also be considered an effective device to remedy listlessness on one of those dull, low-energy days that descend from time to time on every classroom. A typical jigsaw group runs for a period of six to ten weeks, long enough so that the children in it may occasionally get bored with each other and may want the excitement of a temporary change in routine. On the other hand, they may decidedly not want such a change because they have become so comfortable with their teammates; they know exactly what to expect of each other and patterns of interaction have become established and easy. In either case, the expert group challenges them to make new interpersonal adaptations without disrupting the smoothly functioning jigsaw learning group. Finally, as jigsaw group identity solidifies, the groups may be tempted to view each other competitively. Temporary restructuring with expert groups builds bonds across groups, thus helping to keep such intergroup competition from becoming pervasive.

JIGSAW BASICS !20 Expert groups present several special problems, however, because they are not ongoing working units like the jigsaw groups; they change with the curriculum. Since the same people don't meet regularly, they have no chance to develop the cohesiveness that results from the team-building exercises. Initially students may have more trouble working with each other in expert groups, but as the jigsaw groups become used to working together and develop cohesion, the expert groups improve as well. As mentioned before, it is important not to develop intense feelings of competition between jigsaw groups since students from one jigsaw group will have to work with students from other jigsaw groups in the expert sessions.

There is another problem with expert groups. The students may not immediately be comfortable working with each other, particularly when the jigsaw process is new to them. They may even have difficulty getting organized and down to work. Teachers generally find it advisable to pick a responsible and capable leader even for these temporary groups. It is also helpful, on occasion, to run through a quick teambuilding exercise to establish a cooperative mood.

Once the jigsaw process becomes familiar, cooperative attitudes tend to carry over from group to group.


It is impossible for expert groups to have regular leaders since the group composition changes daily. Leaving the groups leaderless creates problems, however. A leaderless expert group has trouble getting organized and accomplishing the day's business. We have tried having expert groups pick their own leaders; this seems to work well with two qualifications: students who are seen as natural leaders tend always to be chosen, and when there is no natural leader among the members of the group, it seems hard for the group to get organized enough to pick any leader at all.

Otherwise, we suggest that the teacher select expert leaders before the day's session and announce them to the class. This alleviates the necessity for the group to pick its own leader and saves time in organization.

It is a good idea for students to have notebooks with them in expert groups and take very short "key word" notes. We strongly discourage, however, letting students write out what they are going to say and read it. Short notes give them about the right amount of help with their parts, and of course learning to take good notes is a valuable skill for students to have.



Having finished working in their expert groups, the students reassemble in their jigsaw groups.

The jigsaw curriculum cards are labeled in a specific order, and the students should teach them in this order. After the jigsaw groups get back together, the student who has card number one beings presenting. If the group is restless and having trouble settling down, the group leader should make an intervention (For example: "I'd like to get started now," or "I;m having trouble hearing Mike because you're talking.") The student who is trying to present might also say something. (For example: "It makes me feel bad when you don't listen to me.") The students in the group should be encouraged to use active listening skills. It's hard to tell if someone is listening if they are drawing pictures, looking down, and showing no overt interest in the procedure generally. A short time (five or ten minutes) should be reserved at the end of the hour for the group to discuss any problems that have arisen in the hour.

After the individual presentations, the group can review all parts together. Each student may try to think of three important points from the lesson. Or students may ask each other questions about the lesson and try to answer questions on parts other than their own. Having the students review insures that every students understands the lesson. If a review is not done, students may leave with an incorrect understanding of the information.

Finally, students in the jigsaw group should fill out the group process sheet and take five or ten minutes to discuss the day's process sheet. Process discussions are feedback sessions and allow the students to express their feelings, talk about problems they feel the group is having, and attempt to find solutions to these problems.


If the class is of average size, it probably will be divided into four to six jigsaw groups. Clearly, even with a teacher's aide, the teacher cannot be everywhere at once. The group leaders function as additional assistants to the teacher, channeling group-process skills to group members and helping organize the activities of the day.

A jigsaw teacher's goal is having students regard each other as learning resources rather than depend solely on her as instructor and leader. She does not abandon all authority in the classroom, however. Instead she acts as a backstage designer, creating a structure where the students may learn JIGSAW BASICS !22 how best to make use of each other's knowledge and skills. In addition, she plays an important role as an information resource, one we will discuss in more detail Chapter 6. The teacher moves around the room, from jigsaw group to jigsaw group, listening, observing, and keeping alert for any problems that may develop. Whenever possible, she makes interventions in group process through the group leader, thereby validating the group leader's authority for the other students. Since getting the group to regulate itself rather than depend on the teacher is the object, interventions should help the group discover its own solutions. The teacher may phrase interventions as requests or suggestions to the group leader. (For example, "Jane, perhaps you should check to see if everyone feels they understand all the parts well enough to take a test tomorrow." Or, "Peter, maybe you should ask the group if telling John that he's stupid is helping them learn the material.”) If a group member complains directly to the teacher about someone in the group (Mr. Cross, Jane is drawing funny pictures instead of listening!"), it is not the responsibility of the teacher to solve the problem directly. The jigsaw teacher refers the problem back to the group to have them solve the problem themselves. In the example give above, Mr. Cross might ask the group leader whether group members have any idea why Jane is drawing pictures instead of listening. Perhaps the presentations are going to fast for her to understand, or perhaps she is bored because the speaker is reading his card in a dull tone of voice. Once the source of the problem has been identified, the teacher may take the group leader aside and suggest ways of solving it, or the students may be ready to take responsibility for finding their own solutions.

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