Mar 30

The Ultimate Guide to Jigsaw Reading

teaching Receptive skills
Jigsaw Reading - a useful technique for CELTA TP and beyond
Jigsaw reading is a great way to give learners a real reason to read and an authentic speaking task. This video will help you to avoid the pitfalls and make it go smoothly!
Video transcript

A communicative approach to language teaching is fundamentally about learning to say things in the new language that are meaningful. So using a jigsaw approach can be good because it gives learners of real reason for reading and a speaking task that's genuinely authentic. So fundamentally, the idea is pretty simple. Two or more learners read different texts, and then they tell each other about what they've read. But there are a few tips and hints that make the whole thing go a bit more smoothly. I'm Jo Gakonga from ELT-training and in this video, I'm going to give you a few of those tips and hints.

I want to divide these into two areas: things to think about when you're preparing to do a jigsaw reading, and then things to think about when you're actually in the classroom.

Okay, so you're preparing for this. The first thing to think about is the type of text you can use. Some texts definitely work better than others for this, if you've got something that's continuous prose, like a newspaper article, this really doesn't work so well. Because if you split it up into three, the person who gets the third part isn't going to find it very easy to get the gist of the whole thing. So what's better is if you can use short readings that are different, but self contained, but also related to each other. So for example, you could use three different film reviews, or two descriptions of different places... like this.

Just as a bit of a tip here, too, in terms of numbers of texts, you have to have at least two, obviously, and if you've got more than three, it probably gets not so manageable. So I'd suggest two or three. You could use four, but I'd stick with two or three.

Another tip here in terms of preparation is that the texts need to be interesting. Of course that's always a good rule to follow with reading texts. And it's probably a good idea if they're not too difficult in terms of the level for the learners, because you want them to be able to understand and describe them. If there's vocabulary in the texts that you feel you'd usually pre-teach, it's probably useful to have a glossary at the bottom.T This could be in English, or if you've got a monolingual group, it could be just a bilingual translation into the first language. Because it feels a bit odd to pre-teach vocabulary to two groups when they've got different texts.

So then also, when you're preparing for this, you'll need to give the learners a task to do. Ideally, what you want is that both groups have the same questions. Obviously, they'll get different answers to them. It isn't mandatory, but it does make it work more smoothly.

So here's an example. Two texts about holiday destinations. And these are possible questions. If you've got the same questions, it means you can give them a grid fill in like this, which also oils the wheels a bit and makes it run a bit more efficiently.

Okay, so you've now prepared. What happens in the classroom. With any reading text, it's good to set the scene, obviously. You need to get them thinking about the topic of the reading, just start that activity off with some communication, get them motivated.

So with our place example, you could ask them to describe a city to their partner, see if the partner can guess which one it is. Or you could ask them to talk about a holiday that they've been - on a good one or a bad one - sometimes the bad ones, promote more conversation. Personalized tasks like this, usually generate good talk.

So then you need to think about splitting up the groups. And organisation here is definitely the key. Let's assume you have two texts. This one about New York and the one about Tahiti. Give one half of the room one text, that's Group A, and the other half the other text, that's Group B. Now, give them some time, obviously, to read the text, answer the questions, and then get them to check their answers together with a person who has the same text as they do. Now, this kind of peer checking is actually really important. And that's for a few reasons. The main one is, it will give you an opportunity to monitor, make sure everyone's got the right answers. But it'll also give the learners more confidence when they have to talk about the text at the next stage. So it's kind of good all round.

Right, so you know that they've got the answers for their text. And now you need to do some rearranging. You could just say, go and find a partner from the other side of the room. But this tends to invite complete chaos in my experience, so it's better to be a bit directive.

The easiest way is just to number them - you're in Group A, you have number one, number two, number three, and in Group B, the same, number one, number two, number three. Again, a little tip is that is a good idea to check that they know which number they are. So you could ask them, a few random ones - whose number three? ah yeah. Now, keep being directive and tell them where to sit - all the ones here, all the twos here, all the threes here, etc, and then get them to move.

At this point, it seems as if it should be quite straightforward. They just tell each other about the texts. But there are some problems that can raise their ugly heads at this point too. The first one is this, they just show each other their reading. So remember, what you want to do is get them to speak, it's a speaking task. So you need to make it clear to them, they can't show each other what they have on the paper, they have to tell each other. And that includes not just showing each other their answers as well, of course.

Another problem is that one group inevitably finishes much faster than the others, because maybe they just give very simple answers to their partner. So again, an answer to this is to be more directive about the timing. Okay, we'll start.

'A, Person A who is in Group A, you have two minutes to tell Person B, about your holiday destination' (so that they can answer the questions). 'Tell them as much information as you can. B, just listen' (right now give them two minutes to do it). 'Okay, now stop. B, you've got a minute, you can ask any questions that you want, to make sure you understand' (and again, give them a minute to do this). 'Stop, right, now. B, you have two minutes to tell A about your holiday destination' (give them some time). 'Great stop. Okay, A, now you have some time to ask any questions that you have'.

Now, at this point, they should all have the answers to both of the texts, the one that they read themselves, and the one that they've been told about. So now you can get them to go back to the original groups, and check that the answers they have for the second text are right. And at this point, you can monitor, make sure that they've got the answers, see how they got on. At the end, if you think it's necessary, you can check the answers to both texts as a class, you probably won't need to, but you might have to, you can see when you monitor.

So that's pretty much it. That was how a jigsaw reading works. But obviously, you could use this as a basis for some follow up activities. And if you want a couple of ideas. One is that you could get them to read the text, that the other group had. And then maybe as a class, you can look at some of the language in both of the texts. This could be grammatically based, or it could be vocabulary, and then maybe get them to write a text of their own on a similar theme, another holiday destination, for example.

Or, another idea is you could get them in pairs to write a version of the text that they haven't seen, before they see it. Because they've got the answers about the text, so they've got some information about the text, and you can get them to write a text from those answers. This is quite nice, because then afterwards, you can give them the original text that they hadn't seen before. And they can check that against the original and spot the differences, almost like a dicta gloss.

So I hope that these ideas have been a bit helpful and let you enjoy jigsaw reading for class. If you're looking for more tips and pointers for English language teaching generally, then you can check out my website at ELT-training.

Thanks very much for listening and see you soon. Bye

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