Creating an Audio Jigsaw Activity

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A few years ago, I was watching my students doing a jigsaw activity in my classroom and I wondered about playing around with the idea of using a recording that could be cut up into segments for students to put back together in order. I mulled the idea over, trying to think of why I would do this and it became clear to me that there could be some real benefits for my students. As I normally do, I tried it out on my own to see how it would work and eventually I used it in class. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked and I started sharing this idea in my conference presentations and with my TESL students. I realized today that I have never shared it in detail and so that is what led me to writing this post.

In summary, this is what happens:

  • I find a file I want my students to listen to.
  • I chop the one audio file into many files.
  • I put those files in one place and share that with my students.
  • Students listen to each section and try to figure out what order they go in based on content and linguistic clues.

So what benefits do my students get from it?

  • They have to listen to content, structure, and pronunciation to figure out what goes where (ie. top-down and bottom-up listening).
  • Students don’t have to understand everything they hear to complete the task, much as it is in real life.
  • I find students are able to remember more about what they listened to than simply playing the file straight through.
  • It helps students focus more on genre as well.

Here is an example:

  • I was going through my ELT Listening Material list for a short audio file where someone was giving a formal informational-style announcement. I ended up selecting this PSA from the CDC on e-cigarettes (something we had been talking about on campus at that time).
  • I downloaded the audio file from that page and I also copied the text from the transcript and pasted that into a separate document.
  • I listened to the audio while reading the text and tried to find places where there may be a content or linguistic marker that could be used to help students predict what was coming next. Here are some examples:
    • “Most electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and may harm brain development.” – I divided it between the words nicotine and which. The idea was that they may pick up on the adjective clause and they would need to think about what it would describe.
    • “Exposure to these ads may be contributing to an increase in e-cigarette use among youth.” – I divided it between contributing and to, hoping students would notice the collocation in the phrasal verb.
    • “Health care providers can counsel youth about the dangers of nicotine, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco use.” – I divided this section between e-cigarettes and and other tobacco use to focus their attention on the intonation as the speaker moves towards the end of the list.
  • Once I set out where I wanted the divisions to be, I opened the file in Audacity, a free open-source audio editor, and I went about marking the divisions and then exporting them as separate files.
  • I took those separate audio files and I put them on Padlet. Once I had created the page the way I wanted it to be, I made copies for each student and shared them with my class (one per student). [Note: Padlet is great for this since it is free, students don’t have to register to use it, and the audio files play directly on the page without having to download them first.]
  • Students then listened to the files and had to comment below each file with the number they thought that file went in and the reason why they chose that number.
  • I then reviewed each student’s comments and added my own comments.
  • I made a list of some of the common problems students had and then reviewed those things as a class.

Here are some more detailed instructions on how to split files in Audacity and how to create an audio jigsaw padlet. At the bottom of the page, I have also included a sample using the examples I gave above.


Splitting the audio using Audacity

  • Open Audacity and then load the file you have downloaded or recorded.

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  • Zoom in using the hotkey Ctrl+1 (Windows) or Command+1 (Mac).

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  • Make sure the marker is at the start of the file.
  • Add a bookmark using the hotkey Ctrl+B (Windows) or Command+B (Mac). Type in a name for the section following that bookmark (this will become the filename for that section when you export).

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  • Find the next place to divide the file and add another bookmark. Continue doing this for all of the places you would like to divide the file.

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  • When you are ready to save, choose File->Export Multiple.

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  • Choose where you would like to save the file and make sure the Format is set to MP3. Click on Export.

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  • Click on OK for each of the file segments.

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  • Click on OK when it is done exporting.

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  • You files are now in the folder you designated in the export section. The filename will be the label you gave it.
    • Tip: Since the filename will show up in the next section, give it an obscure name so it won’t give away the order of the audio files.

Adding the audio files to Padlet

  • Go to Padlet and log into your account (create a free account if you haven’t done so already).

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  • Click on Make a Padlet.

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  • Under Canvas click on Select.

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  • Give your padlet a title and include instructions in the Description section.

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  • Scroll down and choose Comments under Collaboration. Click on Next.

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  • Click on Next on the section.

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  • Click on Start Posting.

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  • Double-click anywhere on the padlet and a box will appear.

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  • Click on on the up arrow icon in the box.
  • Click on Pick File.

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  • Double-click on the first audio file.

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  • Once that has finished uploading, double-click somewhere else on the padlet and add the next file.
  • Continue to do this until all of the files have been uploaded.

Create a copy of of your Padlet for each student

  • Open the padlet you would like to copy.
  • Click on Remake in the top-right corner of the padlet.

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  • Give each padlet a new name (tip: put the student’s name in the title of each padlet).
  • Scroll down and check make sure you have these four things checked:
    • Copy design
    • Copy posts
    • Copy people and privacy
    • Copy authorship

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  • Click on Submit and wait until your new padlet appears.
  • Copy the URL from the browser address bar and share that with that student (tip: I keep a list of each student and the URL for their padlet in one place so I can review them later).
  • Repeat for each Padlet you would like to create from the original.

Sample Audio Jigsaw

Here is a sample audio jigsaw padlet (note: I’ve turned off commenting and editing for this one, but you would leave it on for students. Feel free to click on Remake it to test it out on your own).

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