Jigsaw 🧩️ – A Collaborative Learning Structure Modified for Hybrid/Blended Learning

With a loss of instructional minutes during the 2020-2021 school year, I found myself brainstorming ways I could still cover the content, spark critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity, and still get to some of those big topics I wanted to cover. I didn’t have time for students to read every full chapter, do some type of “input” activity like focused notes or annotation for every section, and then create a learning artifact to share those notes. I was also struggling to get my students to engage, collaborate, and take ownership of the learning. Then I remembered… jigsaw!

Now, the question was, how can I utilize various free technology platforms to do a modified jigsaw in my classroom? I learned about one using Padlet in an AVID DigitalXP training I was in and knew I could replicate this using various other tools. I tried it with a Padlet first and had a lot of success. Was it perfect? No, of course not. I still had two rooms that were very, very quiet. My spokesperson were obvious choices since they’re usually the ones to volunteer already. Some students did more work than others. All the realities and growing pains of collaboration. But, after the first one, I saw tremendous growth.

Photo by @olav_ahrens on Unsplash

It turned in to an #Eduprotocol

Once I continued to implement this collaborative structure, it quickly turned into what might be considered an “Eduprotocol.” “By their very nature, EduProtocol lesson frames are adaptive as the curriculum changes and students move from one topic to another in their studies. Once they have learned a particular lesson frame, the teacher is able to repeat that lesson frame with a variety of content.” –Eduprotocols.com Once we did this once, students understood the format. We were then able to do it again and again with different topics and tools and I started seeing and hearing more and more students open up and take on leadership, student agency, and ownership for their own learning. At the end I’ll tell a really sweet story that came out of one of my jigsaws and then became a norm.

Traditional Jigsaw 🧩️

A classic jigsaw is a collaborative learning structure that asks students to become experts on a certain topic and then bring that expertise back to the group or class. For those who may be new to this concept or need a refresher, jigsaw.org has a step-by step. I’ve also included more details on a classic jigsaw with an example at the bottom of this page.

10 Steps for a “Whole Class Home Group” and Expert Groups

  1. Chunk your unit of study into segments depending on your class size. For example, if you have a chapter that has 8 subheadings or subtopics, you can do 8 groups. If you have a larger section, you can divide that by two. Or, if you have a particular topic that has several parts, you can divide it that way. Example: A chapter section about the Industrial Revolution discusses six inventions (steam engine, spinning jenny, electrical telegraph, cotton gin, locomotive, and the flying shuttle)
  2. Divide students into groups based on the number of topics. You will want these to be heterogeneous groups. I would recommend selecting groups prior to this lesson. If you’re looking for a random group generator to kick off your grouping, consider Flippity. This can help randomly group students and then you can adjust as needed.
  3. Appoint group roles. Note you can add, delete, or combine as needed. Here are some favorites that have been modified for a digital classroom:
    • Timekeeper: Monitors the time for ____ minutes
    • 📄 Materials Organizational Specialist (M.O.S.): Ensures all have access to the materials and/or link(s) and pastes anything in the public chat as needed
    • 💻 Screen-Sharing Scribe: Shares screen (if virtual) and types on the document
    • 🔍 Researchers: ALL group members research and communicate to support the group
    • 🎨 Graphic Designer: Adds any images (Tip: Use Unsplash for royalty-free images)
    • 🗣 Spokesperson: Shares in the main room after breakout room time is over
    • 👏 Encouragers: All group members celebrate the spokesperson
  4. Select the “product” students will create. This can be something by hand such as a poster, one-pager, or set of notes, or it can be a digital tool. The great thing about using an online tool is all of the information is saved together and easily accessible by students. They can save the link into their eBinders. Below I will show how you can do this with Padlet, Google Slides, Google Jamboard, and Google Sheets.
  5. Clearly outline directions and expectations for each group member and consider providing an example and/or templates. Note the topics, breakout room numbers, directions etc. so students are clear on what the expectations are in the breakouts and what they are producing. This is going to be a great time to have a discussion about digital citizenship and respect for others’ property both physical and intellectual. Note: Google Slides and Sheets does have “version history” so you can track the digital footprint of students but Padlet and Jamboard do not. Students do not need to know this, but it’s important for you as the educator to note.
  6. Group members work together to produce their product.
  7. Return as a whole class. Depending on the products, group members can share in person (ex: hold up a poster) or project the tool on the larger screen for all to view. Each spokesperson shares groups’ findings.
  8. The Encouragers celebrate their spokesperson in the chat and/or in class. Here are some digital celebrations that were curated from some amazing AVID Staff Developers. Repeat until all groups have shared and celebrate each group
  9. Allow an opportunity for a debrief and reflection. This can be whole-group or it can be a final exit ticket. I love to have student reflect on their “grit” as well as their collaboration. I often provide them a “grit rubric” and ask them to self-assess how they did. I then go through and see what they say. This is actually how they earn points for this activity.
  10. Final product: The artifact the whole class just created! They can add it to their eBinder.

Tools and Templates:

Make a note that I am modeling a variety of ways you can jigsaw content including vocabulary, critical thinking questions, and synthesis and summary of information.

Tool #1: Google Slides

Create a new Google Slides and add a new Slide for each group. Consider adding any directions and resources in the grey space outside of each slide. Save time by using the duplicate feature to copy each Slide. Change to “anyone with the link can edit.” Use the gallery view feature to view groups working live.

Google Slides used during this video are linked: Jigsaw Example with Google Slides

Tool #2: Google Jamboard

Create a Jamboard and add a board for directions as well as one for each group. Save time by using the duplicate feature to copy each sheet. Change to “anyone with the link can edit.” Special security note: If using this with students, as of June 2021, Jamboard does not have a version history so be sure to have systems in place to ensure digital citizenship (always! but more importantly for this tool since you cannot track the digital footprint)

Tool #3: Google Sheets

Create a new Google Sheets and add a new Sheet for each group. Consider adding any directions and resources at the top of each sheet. Save time by using the duplicate feature to copy each sheet. Change to “anyone with the link can edit.”

Tool #4: Padlet

Create a Padlet and choose the “shelf” template. Note the example is on the first shelf. Change the settings to “write” so all can write. If you do not have a Padlet Pro account, you are limited to three Padlets. Consider downloading the responses to a PDF and uploading them to your LMS so responses can be saved.

A More Traditional Jigsaw 🧩️

In these examples, I speak about taking a whole class, dividing the class into expert groups, and then coming back to the whole class to share with one spokesperson. This can be modified for a traditional jigsaw for a more individualized approach where each student is a spokesperson.

Step 1: Take a topic and divide it into X (you insert the #) amount of parts. Example: 6 Careers

Step 2: Divide the class into even groups (ex: 30 students divided by 6 groups = 5 students/group). 6 careers, one per group.

Step 3: Allow time for each group to research about the topic. Ex: Roles and responsibilities, education requirements, salary, aptitudes and values. Students create notes and/or artifacts to record thinking. These can be shared digitally or individually.

Step 4: Go to each group and assign each group member a number. So, the first group gets #1, #2, #3, etc until everyone has a number. Ask students to hold up their numbers on their fingers to remember.

Step 5: Designate a physical area for experts to meet. So, now, with our career example you have groups that have experts from each career. Ask students to share in order by topic. Consider using Classroomscreen.com to help students a set amount of time to share their expertise. You can also use a “stand, share, sit” method. All group members stand. Each group member gets 3 minutes to share. Once they share, they sit. You, as the instructor, will know when all groups have shared when everyone is seated.

Step 6: Whole group and individual debrief. Ask students big a-ha moments, if this is the first or even second time doing this, glows and grows, and consider an exit ticket or, if running out of time, and into ticket as students reflect on their individual participation, collaboration, and communication.

Here is a helpful video by Jennifer Gonzales, author of the Cult of Pedagogy:

I would love to hear more about YOUR ideas for a jigsaw. How have you incorporated this collaborative learning structure to encourage more collaboration, communication, and student ownership of learning? 
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