Jigsaw Reading Keeps Readers Accountable

Utilize the jigsaw reading strategy to keep pupils accountable and encourage cooperative learning.

By Stef Durr

stack of articles

Do you enjoy using group work, but fear that some learners are opting out of the work? Keep classmates accountable with purposeful, specific readings where each learner gets to feel like an expert, share their learnings with their home group, and complete an individual assessment.

What Does a Jigsaw Reading Look Like?

The jigsaw starts with individual pupils reading an article that was specifically chosen for them based on their reading level. (I usually have them do this at their own desks.) After everyone has independently read, the class is divided into expert groups. Here, learners meet with other experts (classmates who have read the same article) and work toward the objective that you (the teacher) have put in place for each expert group. Then, the class is redivided into home groups. Each home group contains an expert who has read an article unique to the other group members. As each expert shares, group members record important information on a note-catcher. Finally, an independent assessment is given to measure each learner’s understanding.

As the teacher, your work primarily comes before the day’s lesson, circulating during the class period to ensure that each learner is comprehending his text, and understanding what information he needs to share with his home group.

What Are the Benefits of Jigsaw Reading?

When well-planned, a jigsaw reading offers many benefits:

  • The readings can provide background information for an upcoming unit without assigning each class member a half a dozen articles to read and comprehend.
  • Jigsaw reading allows for differentiation. The teacher can select articles based on the reading levels in the classroom.
  • Readers have a high level of responsibility, leading them to feel valued.
  • Readers must comprehend their article and discuss the information in small groups, ensuring that each person's voice is heard.
  • Group members must listen to each reader in order to learn about the articles he/she did not read independently.
  • This type of reading is learner-centered, which increases engagement.

How Does One Plan for a Jigsaw Reading in the Classroom?

  • Step One: Divide learners into expert groups based on reading level

Ideally, you don’t want more than four to five people in each group (which will ensure that each member has an active, valued voice). Here is where you can differentiate: strong readers have more difficult, complex texts, and beginning readers have texts appropriate to their reading level. The goal here is that each reader understands the material well enough to thoroughly explain the article’s main idea in his or her own words. If the texts are too difficult, they won’t have any expertise on their topic, and they won’t feel like a functioning piece of the jigsaw.

  • Step Two: Select the articles that your class will read

Just like a jigsaw puzzle is not complete without each piece, a jigsaw reading shouldn’t be complete without each chosen article. When each article is essential to the day’s objective, each person reading those articles is also essential.

When preparing for our new unit on civil rights, I chose an array of articles that would give my sixth graders some essential background knowledge of the time period, the prejudices and discrimination that led to the civil rights movement, and key historical figures that would be referenced in our upcoming readings. Collectively, the articles should build a deeper understanding or allow for connections in upcoming readings.

  • Step Three: Design a specific, purposeful objective for each expert group

Separate from the day’s objectives, these individual objectives guide readers to accessing the most important information from their reading. Are they going to identify the main idea of the article and put it in their own words? Are they looking to make a connection to something you have previously read or studied? Are they using their text to make inferences for the upcoming unit? Are they finding the basic gist, or who, what, when, where, why, and how? What is the purpose for their reading?

If a clear purpose is not set, it will be very difficult for some learners to break off into home groups and know what material they need to share. You’ll see some kids detail the entire text, and you’ll see others give a one-sentence explanation.

  • Step Four: Redivide learners into home groups

There should be one (and only one) article represented in each home group. Choose classmates who work well together, and consider assigning a captain or leader to keep each home group focused and on task.

  • Step Five: Design a note-catcher for each learner to use in their home groups

It’s nearly impossible for kids to simply listen to one another and walk away knowing the information they need to know. Use time effectively by providing each member of the class with a note-catcher. What information do they need to capture in order to reach the day’s objective?

  • Step Six: Plan an independent assessment to increase accountability

When kids know that they’ll be independently assessed, they are more likely to seek understanding from the things they read or the information they are presented with. Whether it’s a short, multiple-choice quiz, or a stop-and-jot, require learners to show you what they’ve learned from the activity. Remember that your assessment should align closely with your objective!

  • Step Seven: Revisit the articles

You don’t have to require that pupils reread their assigned article, but encourage connections by referencing information presented in the articles. Everyone loves feeling valued, and the experts for each article will enjoy recalling information that only they know.

How do you implement jigsaw readings in your classroom? What variations to the traditional jigsaw ensure that it’s effective for you and your learners? Lesson Planet is always curious to share helpful tips and tricks to better our learning community.

Check out lessons that use jigsaw reading activities:

Remembering Vietnam

"It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why." Remembering Vietnam is a powerful resource. The essential questions, the activities, the readings, the materials examined, all seek to provide learners with the information Tim O'Brien refers to in The Things They Carried. The objective stance permits individuals to formulate their own opinions about the Vietnam War and the Vietnam Memorial. This lesson is a must-have for an English language arts or social studies curriculum library.


Creosol i Gymru! Where is Wales? Encourage your upper-elementary schoolers to explore Wales through jigsaw reading. The class is divided into three groups to learn about language, sports, and culture.

Four Folk Tales about HYO: The Confucian Tradition of Filial Piety

Learners explore the nuances of Confucianism. In a lesson about Korean society, pupils complete jigsaw reading assignments on the Hyo. They compare their own reverence for parents to that described in the pieces about Korea.