How Do You Like These Flipping Jigsaws?


I always liked the concept of jigsaw activtities: to give students more ownership of their learning, to use class time differently, to invite some creativity, etc. The Expert Groups meet for 1 or more class periods to learn about a sub-topic and to prepare a short presentation about it. Then students break into the Home Groups to spend another class period or two teaching each other. However, in real life these activities can quickly get messy and unproductive:

  • Some students read their material more slowly than others; other students rush through the individual work in their Expert Group.
  • The volume level in the classroom distracts some students as they try to learn their topic for the first time.
  • What about students that were absent on the learning day? Jigsaws typically take 2 or 3 days to complete, so you get the problem of a student who missed the time in their Expert Group… what’s he/she supposed to do now?

If you flip your jigsaws, then the Expert Groups can learn the material outside the classroom, at their own pace and with as much multimedia as you provide.Give them a couple nights to watch / listen to / read whatever you provide. Each student takes the time he/she needs, in a more appropriate location,regardless of their attendance at school. The small group peer pressure should help ensure that most or all come to class prepared. Let the Expert Groups meet briefly (less than a class period) to prepare and align their mini-presentations — this is an important quality assurance step. Then break student into the Home Groups and let the teaching begin!

organizationTheCivil War Trusthas a fantastic set of informational videos about various aspects of the war. Last June, I used these topics for the Expert Groupsin a flipped jigsaw.I’m very glad that I assigned such short videos, because students re-watched them to improve their understanding. We use Schoology, which allowed me toindividually assign videos. On a regular website you could list all the video links on the same page, and then list the names of individuals or groups next to their assigned video.

I believe this strategy will work for veteran flippers AND any first-timers. You don’t need to establish a special grading policy, quiz format, or website. It can be a good way to try different video formats and providers (some watch a Youtube clip, others view a TEDTalk, etc.), and introduce your students to this kind of homework. If the flipping flops, then you can walk away without having wasted much time and effort. If it flipping rocks, then build on the strengths and lessons of this experience to try again with your next unit!

Elsewhere I have advice for flipping newbies: work with a colleague your very first time!

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