Published 19th April 2018

esl teacher in action

Once you have spent a couple of months teaching English as a foreign language and have some experience under your belt, you may soon feel a bit of deja vu in the classroom. This is not your fault and it is to be expected. You see, what you will find is that you keep repeating the same or similar themes, topics and activities in the classroom. Regardless of the nationality, level or age of the students you are teaching, there are certain practices which crop up again and again in the EFL classroom.

A jigsaw activity is one such example.

What is a jigsaw activity?

A jigsaw activity involves the teacher cutting up a text into a number of different sections and letting the students decide in which order they should be put back together.

Sounds easy! Anything I need to bear in mind?

The teacher needs to make sure that there is only one correct solution and so also be able to provide clues if necessary. The text needs to be cut up in such a way that the correct order is not too obvious but that it is not too challenging – there must be clues in the text as to the logical order of the text. This also means deciding on an appropriate number of jigsaw pieces – too few could be too easy and too many could contribute to the level of challenge.

Why are jigsaw activities effective?

If the students are able to construct the original text, this will show that they have understood the text in terms of language, content and also coherence and cohesion. If you are focusing on a particular language point for consolidation or revision, you can manipulate the activity by cutting up the text in the appropriate places, in this way ensuring the completion of the activity shows an understanding of the language.

Alternative jigsaw activity ideas

A more difficult version of a jigsaw activity involves cutting up a number of texts. For example, if you have two emails of complaints, you can cut them up and the students will have to decide which extracts belong to which email as well as what order they should go in.

Another option is to cut up a spoken text instead of the traditional written text. We don’t mean trying to edit a listening text but rather to cut up the transcript of a listening text. This works really well with dialogues or functional language.

Jigsaw activities are a very useful activity in the EFL classroom. They adapt well to a variety of texts and are relatively low on preparation. All in all, they are a valuable tool to have in your teaching toolbox.