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Jigsaw Reading in TEFL

A jigsaw being put together.Jigsaw Reading is a common reading technique. The name comes from the way in which jigsaw puzzles are put together: several pieces slotted into the right place to build up the complete picture.

Essentially you divide the text into small parts. Each part is given to a different student who must read and understand it. Then the students come together and talk about what they have just read and as a group they build up the complete picture of what the whole text says.

As you can imagine, this is great reading practice!

Jigsaw Reading has several major advantages in the TEFL classroom. Firstly each person in the group has responsibility; shyer and weaker students have as much responsibility as stronger students which means no students get pushed to the back. This means, in turn, that everyone plays an equal part in the reading process.

In addition, large texts which might be off-putting at first glance, can be broken down into more easily manageable chunks.

Preparation

To prepare a text for jigsaw reading is simple. You will just need to cut the text into small, discrete, units allowing for one piece per student (or per group if you are doing it in groups).

As to the text itself this should, of course, be of the right subject and level for the class. Although almost any text can be used, jigsaw reading is often most effective and fun with narrative texts; short stories make for good lessons.

Once you have chosen it you should prepare a set of questions to test comprehension. These questions should be varied and cover all areas of the text which will allow different students to answer.

Running the Activity

In class, raise expectations and encourage speculative thinking by writing up the name of the text on the board and getting the class to offer ideas on what the text is likely to be about. Don’t be restrictive here.

Then divide the class into groups (or individuals) and give each their piece of text to study. You can optionally allow dictionaries here. After a few minutes reassemble the class and have them reconstruct the text as a whole and then answer the questions you prepared earlier.

Following this, if appropriate, you can discuss the text as a whole with the class or have different students give short verbal presentations on various aspects of the text.

Jigsaw Reading with Sentences

With less advanced classes, you can have the students work on individual sentences rather than stories. For example, you can break a text into individual sentences which must be read and understood by individual students who can then come together and try and recreate the whole.

This can be fun with jokes:

  1. A young boy walks into a barber’s shop.
  2. The barber whispers to his customer, “This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.”
  3. The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other.
  4. He says to the boy, “Which do you want, son?”
  5. The boy takes the quarters and leaves.
  6. “What did I tell you?” said the barber. “The kid is stupid.”
  7. Ten minutes later the customer leaves the shop and sees the boy coming out of a shop licking an ice cream.
  8. “Hey, kid, can I ask you something?” the customer says.
  9. “Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?”
  10. The boy licked his cone and replied, “Because the day I take the dollar, the game is over!”

Useful Links

Reading‏‎ Skills in Teaching English – a general look at reading in TEFL.

Reading Comprehension‏‎ – about reading comprehension in TEFL.

Humor / Humour in the Classroom – jokes for your TEFL class.

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