A Classroom Management Idea

To encourage learning and reduce discipline disruptions during class time, consider implementing a jigsaw classroom. With this classroom management approach, students work in teams to master an assignment on which they will be tested. Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each student in the group holds one piece essential for full understanding.

For example, in studying the creation of the American Constitution, each team member becomes a specialist on one area: the Southern viewpoint, the Northeastern Viewpoint, the middle states viewpoint. The specialists study their specific viewpoint with students from other groups studying the same topic. Then the specialists go back to their home group and teach the others.

To master the subject, the whole group must listen to what each specialist has to say. If the others heckle or tune out the specialist, they risk doing poorly on the test that follows. The earning process itself encourages listening, respect, and cooperation. As a result, discipline issues tend to decrease.

Students in jigsaw learning groups quickly let go of their negative stereotypes. Likewise, studies in multicultural schools show that the more friendly contacts students have across group divides, the less their bias.

Take Julio, a fifth-grader who left the school that many Mexican-American students attend in order to be bused to a different neighborhood. Kids in his new school were better informed in all subjects. They ridiculed him and his accent. Julio became an instant outsider, shy and insecure.

But in the jigsaw classroom, the same students who had made fun of him now had to depend on his piece of the learning puzzle for their own success. At first they put him down for his halting delivery, making him freeze—and they all did poorly. So they began to help and encourage him. The more they helped, the more relaxed and articulate Julio became. His performance improved as his group mates saw him in an increasingly favorable light.

Jigsaw learning prompts total participation, collaboration, and reliance on others. The results, as can be seen by this example, are significant. It is a total win-win situation that can be applied to many areas, depending upon the creativity of the teacher.