Jigsaw Activities: Examples & Classroom Applications

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone

Mary Firestone has a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Firestone has experience as an instructor for English, English Composition, Advanced Composition, Contemporary World Literature, Contemporary Literature, and Creative Writing. She has taught at a variety of schools such as Ottawa University Online, Rasmussen College, Excelsior College, and Southern New Hampshire University.

Learn about jigsaw activities, and how they're used in the classroom. Find out how to apply jigsaw activities to your lessons. Review the lesson then take a quiz to test your knowledge.

Jigsaw Activities

We tend to think of learning something as starting from the beginning and going all the way to the end by ourselves, but learning in groups is another way to learn just as effectively.

A jigsaw activity is a cooperative learning technique where students work in groups to teach each other something. The groups are given an overall assignment, and each student in each group becomes an 'expert' on a smaller part of it. When each student has taught what he/she knows to another group member, they have together learned the overall assignment and completed the jigsaw (similar to a puzzle).

The jigsaw method was developed by psychologist Elliot Aronson in the 1970s. Studies have shown that this method '...reduces racial conflict among school children, promotes better learning, improves student motivation, and increases enjoyment of the learning experience' (www.jigsaw.org). Jigsaws are a common way to implement cooperative learning in the classroom.

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  • 0:01 What Is a Jigsaw Activity?
  • 0:56 General Application
  • 1:41 Example
  • 2:55 Important Tips
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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General Application

The jigsaw method can be applied to nearly any topic, provided that students have received enough instruction and have access to the materials they need for developing their 'expert' role in the group.

The general steps are as follows:

  1. Divide students into groups of five or six.
  2. Assign a group leader.
  3. Divide the assignment up into sections that equal the number of students in each group.
  4. Give each student in each group one segment of this topic to learn.
  5. Students take the required time to learn their part of the topic, and form a second set of groups based on the topic.
  6. Students take turns sharing what they've learned and fill in any gaps, becoming experts on their part of the lesson and rehearsing what they will be presenting to their main group.
  7. Each group member then returns to his/her original group and teaches what he's/she's learned (Jigsaw in 10 Easy Steps).


Let's say you're teaching a unit on American presidents of the 20th century, and are focusing on President John F. Kennedy. Your jigsaw might proceed as follows:

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