Jigsaw Groups

I came across this idea in Evidence Based Teaching by Geoff Petty and adapted the idea to suit my subject; I thought it might be worth sharing my approach.

 I use jigsaw groups to get pupils to research separate parts of a single topic. The topic that I covered most recently was the early 1900s; we were studying An Inspector Calls and I wanted pupils to understand the context of the play before we began reading it. The quick and easy way to do this is to create a Powerpoint with every topic on it that I want them to learn and talk it at them. Of course, this only creates surface level learning.

To take the Powerpoint approach would mean that I see pupils’ brains as empty vessels to fill with facts; I do not! I see pupils’ minds as fires of discovery waiting to be lit.  Teaching like this would be lecturing; the learning pyramid dictates that they would retain very little of this information if taught in this way.


 Groupings and Task

I split the main topic into four sub topics:

  • Social unrest
  • Rulers
  • 1900 – 1940
  • JB Priestley’s life

Each group were tasked to research one sub topic. They were given a visual tool to record their initial findings so they could see how much information was needed.

The groups were organised as:

A1, 2, 3, 4 B1, 2, 3, 4C1, 2, 3, 4 

D1, 2, 3, 4


A1, 2, 3, 4 B1, 2, 3, 4C1, 2, 3, 4 

D1, 2, 3, 4


Every letter is a table and every number is a pupil. The organisation is important so that they can deliver their information fresh to another group later in the lesson. I  used post it notes to guide pupils to the right table.


Printed information was provided to get pupils started; they also had access to the Internet so that they could research the topic further. Pupils were well aware of SOLO taxonomy and were encouraged to work through the levels gathering information to gain a multi structural understanding before questioning their findings to a higher level, gaining a solid understanding of their sub topic in the thirty minutes that they were allocated for the research task.

Reflection Time

When the research time was over, pupils were given time to gather their thoughts as a group. It was important for them to reflect and decide on their most relevant discoveries which they felt were important to teach to others. The idea behind this type of activity is that pupils make discoveries by themselves. They are given time and room to think and develop ideas. They are essentially teaching themselves about a topic which is an excellent way to develop skills of enquiry as well as help them to retain the information that they have gathered. They need this reflection time to digest their discoveries.

 Structured Teach a Friend

The groups are then split so that all of the numbers are together on a table. A1, B1, C, 1, D1 yellow are together; A1, B1, C1, D1 Green are together. This way each pupil on the table holds a piece of the jigsaw. I created a paper jigsaw for them to record their important discoveries, making bringing their part of the puzzle together more visual.

Each class member holds important information. They need to share this information with their new group and listen to what their new group have to say. Each pupil is given a time slot to deliver their information, avoiding anyone talking for too long or being left out. Question balls are provided, after all information is divulged, to help the group to further question people’s ideas.

 Relational Ideas

Finally they return to their original tables to relate their findings to completing a task which allows me to assess how much they have learned about the overall topic. Pupils must be aware that this final task is on its way and that only a group which holds all of the relevant information will be able to complete it. This creates an element of competition as well as a purpose to listen to the discoveries of others.

The final task for the An Inspector Calls lesson was that a visual representation of each character type from the story was displayed on the board. I asked pupils to use their multi structural knowledge to give an insight into the experiences of these characters from 1920sBritain. They had to show that they had an understanding of each sub topic in their response. For example, one group decided that the image of Mr Birling was representative of the decadence which King Edward VII was famous for. That group had made that discovery themselves…I didn’t teach them that! I merely provided the tools and structure for them to achieve independently.


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