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Twist on a classic: Jigsaw reading

If you’re looking for something novel to catch learners’ attention at the start of a reading lesson, this is it…

A classic

Jigsaw reading is truly deserving of its place as a classic TESOL activity. It’s an uber-communicative activity, involving reading, speaking and listening with a collaborative goal. Let’s look at the usual procedure to make sure we’re all on the same page…

Preparation. Teacher (or a nominated learner) finds a relevant text, makes one copy per group of learners and cuts it up so that each learner has one section of the text. Ideal texts for this are ones which are organised by subheadings.

Procedure. Each learner reads their piece of the ‘jigsaw’ and remembers what it says. They then place it face down and take turns to summarise their piece of the jigsaw to their group. Collectively, the group achieves some shared outcome with the information, such as answering questions, discussing the information, completing a table, ranking or ordering the information, etc.

(Alternatively, you could give each learner different texts, as opposed to sections of the same text, eg. each learner reads a holiday advert, describes it to the group and finally  make a group decision about which holiday to go on.)


The twist

Last year I experimented with some slightly different ways to break up the text into pieces of the puzzle. ‘Sabotaging’ the text was one of my favourites…

Preparation. Make a copy of the whole text for each group. Scrunch the copies up into balls like the one above. You may need to perfect your scrunching technique to ensure that different parts of the text are visible on different balls and that the balls don’t reveal too much information.

Procedure. Hand one ball out to each group and give them a couple of minutes to write down any words or phrases they can decipher from it. They mustn’t un-scrunch the text, however tempting this may be. When they’re done, make cross-reporting groups (i.e. if they were AAA BBB CCC before, now you put them into ABC ABC ABC groups). They share the information about the text with each other and each group predicts what the text is about. They can then flatten out the text to check their predictions and carry on with the reading lesson.

You might be thinking what I initially thought: ‘It sounds a bit gimmicky. It’s not exactly a real-life, communicative activity.’ It’s true, but used once or twice in a General English class (especially with young learners/teenagers), the excitement it will generate is certainly worth the compromise on task authenticity.

PS. If you’re wondering what the text on the scrunched up papers was, it’s Buy Nothing Day from Teen World.


  1. Pingback: Teaching with a twist | Kate's Crate

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