Using the Jigsaw Strategy to Practice Summarizing

August 24, 2019

The jigsaw strategy was my number one technique this past year for turning the chattiness of my class into purposeful, academic conversations. Read on for the specifics of how I use this technique to build up students' summarizing skills.
The jigsaw strategy was my number one technique this past year for turning the chattiness of my class into purposeful, academic conversations.

If you've never used the jigsaw strategy, here's the typical process:
Step 1: Create groups of 4-6 students.
Step 2: Divide the material into 4-6 parts, and assign one student in each group to be responsible for a different part.
Step 3: Give students time read and analyze their assigned part independently.
Step 4: Put students who completed the same part together into an “expert group” to talk about it.
Step 5: Have students return to their original “jigsaw” groups and take turns sharing the parts they’ve become experts on.
Step 6: Have students complete a task or a quiz that relies on them having understood the material from the contributions of all their group members.

I use a fairly similar, but slightly different process. With 24 students in my class, I start with three students in a "focus group" (expert group) and then each of those students reports out to a "discussion group" (jigsaw group) made up of eight students. Having more "expert groups" allows me to break the text we are reading into smaller chunks. 
The jigsaw strategy was my number one technique this past year for turning the chattiness of my class into purposeful, academic conversations. Read on for the specifics of how I use this technique to build up students' summarizing skills.

I make my groups of 3s on 8 sticky notes so I can be sure to balance talkative versus quiet, high level and lower level readers, etc. Then I number off the names on each sticky note to form my larger groups of 8, again paying close attention to the balance of the groups.

Here are the steps I followed with the objective of having students practice summarizing. It's a skill I practice over and over with my students and practicing it in combination with the jigsaw strategy does wonders for comprehension of challenging texts.

Step 1: After a whole class reading, divide the text into 8 chunks and assign each student a chunk
Step 2: Give students a set amount of time to reread their chunk and annotate it. I usually aim for three types of annotations. For this reading, students circled details about setting, underlined characters' names, and put a box around important events.
Step 3: Have students write a one sentence summary of their chunk on an index card.
Step 4: Students meet with the other students assigned the same chunk, share their one sentence summaries, and revise to come up with a "best summary sentence."
Step 5: Each small group divides and becomes part of a larger group. Each student in the group shares his/her revised sentence. The group puts the sentences in order and connects them with transitions to write a full summary of the text.

The biggest difference between my process and the typical one is that students have a concrete task to complete not just at the end of a jigsaw, but when they work independently and with their focus (expert) group. I find that it is critical for preparing students for the work that they will do with their discussion (jigsaw) group.

The jigsaw strategy was my number one technique this past year for turning the chattiness of my class into purposeful, academic conversations. Read on for the specifics of how I use this technique to build up students' summarizing skills.

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