The following blog post was written by Andrea Kiss-Parciu, an ELL instructor at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.
Reading is an essential tool in learning a new language. It gives learners exposure to authentic language, helps them learn new vocabulary and broadens their knowledge on any particular topic.
In the CLB 6 class where I have been teaching for the past few years, I like to use reading as part of an integrated learning process. Jigsaw reading is an excellent way to engage students more actively. Learners have the opportunity to practice not only reading, but also speaking, listening and even writing. Here is the process that I follow:
STEP 1: Selecting the Reading Material
- I usually pick 3-4 articles related to one topic. The number of articles depends on whether the number of learners in my class can be divided by 3 or 4. When selecting the articles, I make sure that the level of difficulty is not excessively high and that they are no more than one page long.
- I use mostly the CBC website as my source. It is also possible to use articles from newspapers or magazines, but some of the articles in these will be more difficult.
- It is important to consider not just the length of an article, but also its level of complexity in language and subject matter. I would suggest leaving this type of activity until a bit later in the course as by then we know our learners better and can choose articles that are more appropriate for them. See Selecting Classroom Material for more information.
STEP 2: Expert Groups - Understanding the Article (the Reading Stage)
- I group the learners in “expert groups”, where all of the learners in the group have the same article. They read the article individually, underlining unknown words or phrases. They are not allowed to use a dictionary at this point.
- After they finish reading the article, learners compare what they underlined and if another group member knows a word or phrase, he/she explains it. They also discuss the main idea of the article and a few general ideas – what they are able to understand after one reading without using a dictionary.
- Next, they read the article again, this time using a dictionary to understand it in more depth. They make a list of new words (no more than 10), and compare their list with other members of the group.
- After a second reading, they discuss the article again, now trying to understand it in more detail. They may ask each other questions about certain details or unclear parts.
- Finally, they take turns reading the article aloud (paragraph by paragraph) for pronunciation, intonation and rhythm practice.
STEP 3: The Jigsaw Group – Sharing the Information (the Listening/Speaking Stage)
- This is the “jigsaw group” stage. One learner from each “expert group” is needed to form the “jigsaw groups”.
- They take turns telling the others in their new group about their article. The learners are encouraged to use some of the new vocabulary and explain its meaning to their group. By this point they should be able to explain it clearly and answer questions if needed.
- When all the learners have finished telling their “story”, and after they have discussed the topics in more depth, they may exchange articles and read the others’ articles as well (this is optional).
STEP 4: Summarizing the Information (the Writing Stage)
- In this step the learners write about their article. I usually do one of two types of writing: summary or letter to the editor/personal response. The task I choose depends on what type of writing we have practiced in class.
- It is up to the instructor whether at this point they want to assign the writing as homework, or as an in-class activity. If the in-class activity is chosen, the learners can go back to their expert groups and do a “group writing” task. This will allow them to discuss/review what they have learned about summary writing or the steps and parts of a formal letter.
STEP 5: Presenting the Information (the Presentation Stage)
- The final step is telling the story in front of the class.
- The next day or a few days later, as a review exercise, some learners come up to the front of the room and tell the story to the whole class.
- Since I usually do this type of activity more than once in the term, generally all the learners get a chance to present in front of the class.
Ideas for Assessment
You can use this activity to assess several competencies:
- During the “expert group” and the “jigsaw group” stages, walk around the room and make anecdotal comments about the speaking activity going on in each group. I assess learners for their ability to express ideas clearly, take turns, interrupt and ask questions.
- You can also create a CLB 6 writing rubric to assess their summaries or a CLB 6 speaking rubric to assess the short presentations.
- For more information on rubrics, see the ATESL Adult ESL Curriculum Framework: Setting and Assessing Outcomes
Other ways of using this activity
- This could also be done as a “jigsaw listening”. The students would listen to a news story or a short lecture several times. Then discuss it in their “expert groups”, and after that tell it to other students in the “jigsaw group”. Finally, this can also be followed up with a summary writing activity.