“Piecing it together”: Reading and sharing in groups

Image courtesy of Ella Phillips

Image courtesy of Ella Phillips

The use of jigsaw reading is nothing new in education, yet it is still an effective tool to help students interact with a particular text in order to understand it at a deeper level. This is done by giving each student in a group a different section of a text or a related text and having them share their findings to the rest of their group. This is often done as a paper-based activity, but this can also be accomplished using computer-based tools to add an additional element of collaboration.


  • Deeper understanding: By having students summarize information orally, learners need to have a greater comprehension of the text.
  • Spoken interaction: Students need to discuss with others on how to share the information with their home group. Students then need to share that information on their own and field questions.
  • Shared responsibility: The burden of understanding the text is distributed amongst others in the group. This helps alleviate anxiety which can aid in comprehension.
  • Different perspectives: By sharing the information with their home group, students can interact with the other students to create a single document that displays their viewpoint. Other students can then compare and contrast these documents as a class.
  • Graphic organizers: To achieve this digitally, I am using the Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers. These are fillable PDFs that can be downloaded, filled in using a PDF editor, and then uploaded or printed.
  • Digital text: This could be typed up or copied from a PDF or website. In order to make it easier to copy text, I would suggest PrintFriendly to convert a website to a PDF. To edit a PDF text, use PDF to Word Online Converter.
  • Online document editor: I would suggest using something like TitanPad to post the URL addresses for each whiteboard.
  • Large display: This can be an interactive whiteboard (IWB) or computer with projector.
  • PDF editor: Most PDF viewers such as Acrobat Reader or Preview allow users to fill in fillable PDFs. These are readily available on almost any computer.
  • Online PDF Viewer: There are a number of online viewers, but I would suggest using PDFZen.
  1. Select a text or multiple texts on a related subject and convert it to digital text if necessary. If it is a text in a book, type out the text in a word processor. If it is a PDF, some PDFs will allow you to copy and paste the text, while others will need to be converted to a Word document using PDF to Word Online Converter. For online text, I would recommend that you first convert the page to PDF using PrintFriendly in order to make sure other text, such as advertising, doesn’t sneak into the article.
  2. If you are using one text, divide that text into sections and copy and paste each section or each document into a separate TitanPad document.
  3. Create a single ‘homepage’ that students can use to get instructions and the URL address for their document. Paste the URL for each document onto this page and assign a group number for each document.
  4. Put students into groups and assign them a group number. Each student in that group reads the document on their own. After each group member is finished reading, the group gets together and talks about how they are going to share this with their home group. Each member share what they thought was important from the reading and students debate on how they will best present this information to their home group.
  5. After a set time, assign new groups that have one person from each document put together. The group members now share their document with the rest of the group without looking at the text.
  6. Have each group download a copy of the Process and Cycle chart from Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers. Have each group piece together the text into a single document by filling in the sections of the chart using a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Preview.
  7. Once students have finished completing the chart, they save a copy and then upload their PDF to PDFZen and post the URL to the class document.
  8. Once all the groups have completed the chart, display each chart on the IWB or projector and have the class compare and contrast the different charts.
  • You can assign groups according to speaking and reading levels in order to balance out the groups.
  • Make sure to set time limits in order to make sure students are finishing together.
  • Continually monitor the groups to answer any questions and make sure they are on task.
  • For more extensive tasks, students could create infographics to post and share outside of the classroom.

Have you done a jigsaw activity using computers? What did you use? How did it work out? You can add you comments below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact form on this website. Thank you!


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