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Using Jigsaw Reading Activities in Mixed Ability Classes

written by: Doritsas • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 1/5/2012

Jigsaw reading and STAD are two types of cooperative learning activities that teachers should be encouraged to use in their mixed ability classes. Both activities are fun and educational that ultimately encourages students to work according to their level and ability in a non-threatening way.

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    Cooperative Learning with Jigsaw

    In Jigsaw I, the teacher divides a reading comprehension into four or five parts. The teacher must make sure that each part of the text can be read and understood independently from the rest of the text. The class is divided into groups of four, (ideally) called the EXPERT groups. Each group is then given one part of the text to learn independently. The task of these groups is to ensure that each member of the group understands his/her part of the material and that s/he will be able to teach it to others in his/her group. The students should be responsible for both vocabulary and content and a worksheet should be prepared by the teacher in order to help the students.

    The next step involves dividing students into their HOME groups. In each of these groups, there will be one student representing each of the expert groups. Each member of the group now teaches the rest of the group about the section s/he just read about. Only after all the members have reported to the group do the students know what the passage is about. The students can then either answer the questions in the book or work on a worksheet prepared by the teacher.

    Since this method of group work involves peer teaching, even the lowest performing student can actively participate, while the stronger students reinforce their knowledge by teaching it to others. Each student, no matter what his or her level of English is, has a vital piece of information, needed by the other members of the group. This factor contributes to the student’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

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    ... now for Jigsaw II

    The same text is used by all the students. Each expert group is assigned a different topic which the text relates to. For example, if the text is a short story which has been read in class, then different topics could include:

    a) scan text/story for people, places and number and then categorize into groups. (lower performing students)

    a) to summarize the content (middle group)

    b) to write about the different characters (middle to strong)

    c) to find out information about the author (strong)

    d) to look up background information about the place where the story takes place or historical background

    As in Jigsaw I, after completing the task in the EXPERT groups, the students are divided into the HOME groups, where they each report back to the group and then complete a task prepared by the teacher, requiring the students to relate to all of the topics.

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    S.T.A.D. --Student Teams Achievement Division

    STAD (Student Teams Achievement Division) is another cooperative learning technique which is made up of five components: class presentation by the teacher, teams for peer teaching, quizzes based on group scores, individual improvement scores which allow the lower performing student to contribute as many, if not more points than the stronger students because the points are given for improvement, and team recognition.

    The idea behind STAD is that the teacher divides the class into mixed groups of ability. He or she teaches the material (i.e. a grammar point) formally. Then, in groups, the students practice the material based on worksheets prepared by the teacher or exercises in the students’ textbooks, with the students helping one another, and/or re-teaching the material when necessary. The students are then tested individually.

    Each student is given improvement points and the total number of improvement points for each group is calculated. The teacher then informs the class of the results. STAD can be a very beneficial learning experience as students can help one another, practice together and become very involved in the inter-group competition.


  • Teaching experience.