The jigsaw technique brings reading lessions to life

Abstract. Reading class hour might be boring if students just stick to their chairs, read the given passages individually, fulfill some reading tasks, and finally check their answers with their teacher. Nonetheless, it was only a traditional case occurring in the past since teachers have made an enormous attempt on working out a diversity of reading techniques so as to make the lessons more lively, one of which is the “jigsaw classroom” technique. This paper briefly introduces the jigsaw technique and its benefits as well. Afterwards, it lists the steps that the teachers can follow to form a jigsaw classroom and gives some tips on implementing the jigsaw technique. Lastly, the paper draws some conclusions and suggests further research.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 53-60 THE JIGSAW TECHNIQUE BRINGS READING LESSIONS TO LIFE Nguyen Tam Trang Hanoi Nationnal University of Education E-mail: Abstract. Reading class hour might be boring if students just stick to their chairs, read the given passages individually, fulfill some reading tasks, and finally check their answers with their teacher. Nonetheless, it was only a traditional case occurring in the past since teachers have made an enormous attempt on working out a diversity of reading techniques so as to make the lessons more lively, one of which is the “jigsaw classroom” technique. This paper briefly introduces the jigsaw technique and its benefits as well. Afterwards, it lists the steps that the teachers can follow to form a jigsaw classroom and gives some tips on implementing the jigsaw technique. Lastly, the paper draws some conclusions and suggests further research. Keyworld: reading, reading techniques, jigsaw classroom, benefits of jigsaw. 1. Introduction In general, reading is “a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing mean- ing. . . , a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing infor- mation and ideas” (an article) (Reading (process), 2010). Of the four macro-skills, reading is “by far the most important skill, particularly in English as Second Lan- guage (ESL) or English as Foreign Language (EFL)” (Carrel, 1981, p.1). In particular, for many students, reading, first, provides them with a lot of in- teresting information as they, thanks to reading, might be exposed to “the required knowledge that is available in English” (Munby, 1978, p.3). Moreover, through read- ing, students may gain access to a rich diversity of linguistic expressions as well as grammatical structures, which can come in handy for them to enhance the other skills. Traditionally, reading was acknowledged as “a bottom-up process in a word- sentence-passage sequence, in which readers decode the text and rebuild what the writer wants to convey” (Qian Huang, 2009, p.138). As a consequence, he (Qian 53 Nguyen Tam Trang Huang) claimed that “reading teaching becomes teaching of language points known as grammar and vocabulary”. Accordingly, it is misleading to believe that the only approach of teaching reading to second-language (L2) students is enlarging their vocabulary and helping them to master grammatical rules before letting them read the texts on their own. In addition, in reading class hours, teachers might ask their students to read aloud the reading texts, then, translate them with the intention of checking and correcting the students’ pronunciation as well as assisting the whole class to comprehend the texts in their mother tongue, respectively. As a result, the students can find it boring, and do not take part in the reading activities. Actually, it is not always the case and teachers have been endeavoured to figure out various appropriate and interesting methods of reading teaching, one of which is the “jigsaw classroom” technique. "We only remember about 10 to 20% of what we read. It’s probably not a good idea to ask students to read a text and then assume that they have learned anything substantial. Enter the jigsaw technique. This method forces a student to continue to engage a certain text in a number of different ways. First the student reads it. Then he or she discusses it with peers. Finally, it is re-taught to other students that haven’t read the text" (Rock, 2007, p.1). A large number of teachers of English (E.g. Ali, 2001; Bafile, 2008; Epstein, 1991; Morris, (2009); Rees, (2002); Buehl, (1997); Ledlow (1996), etc.) have applied this technique to their classes and it proves to successfully interest their students and make them willingly participating in the class activities. This is also one of the writer’s favourite techniques used in order to create cooperative learning among her students. This paper briefly introduces the jigsaw technique, not to mention its bene- fits. Moreover, it also lists the steps that the teachers can follow to form a jigsaw classroom as well as gives some tips on implementing the jigsaw technique. Lastly, the paper draws some conclusions and suggests further research. 2. Content 2.1. Overview of the jigsaw technique The jigsaw classroom was first used in 1971 in Austin, Texas by Elliot Aronson. It is a teaching technique utilised in small group instruction. Normally, for a class of 26 to 30 students, students are divided into groups of four to six students, each of which is assigned to research different subtopics. Individual members of each jigsaw group then break off to work in the expert groups whose members are the students assigned the same subtopics. Eventually, each student will come back to her or his 54 The jigsaw technique brings reading lessions to life jigsaw group and will try to present a well-organized report to the group. The jigsaw strategy is a cooperative learning technique appropriate for not only students from 3rd to 13th grade but also adults in English Second Language (or ESL) classes. Given that cooperative learning is based on the concept that students learning together in small groups increase the individual learning of each group member, cooperative learning differs from group tasks. On the one hand, in the latter, everyone may or may not contribute and it is possible for each student to do the task himself/herself instead of working with other members in the groups. As a result, the group tasks can be completed even when individual group members do not make an equal contribution. On the other hand, in the former, each student must work with the others in the group to complete the task (Coelho, 1982). Each student is responsible for the success or failure of the others. If student A does not help student B, then both of them will fail. The jigsaw technique works just as in a jigsaw puzzle: “each piece–each stu- dent’s part–is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final prod- uct. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective” (Lestik & Plous, 2000). 2.2. Benefits of the jigsaw classroom The jigsaw strategy is a considerably efficient teaching method “with a three- decade track record of successfully reducing racial conflict and increasing positive educational outcomes” (Lestik & Plous, 2000). By giving each member of the group an essential part to play in the academic activity, it encourages each student to listen to, engage with, and interact with the others. Hence, the jigsaw strategy builds interpersonal and interactive skills as well. In a typical English reading class, the researcher often lets her students read the whole text individually for a while. After that, some students are selected to read and translate each part of the whole text. While the student is reading her/his assigned part of the text, the researcher will correct her/his pronunciation. And as the student is translating the part into Vietnamese, the researcher will explain the new vocabulary as well as the new grammatical structures. Later on, the students are asked to do such tasks as True/False questions, open-ended questions requiring short responses, three option multiple choice ques- tions, correction tasks, matching, and so on by themselves within an appointed time. Finally, the reading class ends with the researcher’s correction. In this typical read- ing class, some students may participate in the class activities, the others, for some reasons, may chat, fall asleep or play with their mobile phone, etc. In contrast, a jigsaw reading class is more lively and joyful. In ESL classrooms, jigsaw is a four-skill approach, integrating reading, speaking, listening and writing. 55 Nguyen Tam Trang First, the students, instead of reading the whole texts or researching the topics quietly by their own, just have to read one part of the texts or research one subtopic, then discuss with other members in the expert groups. Thanks to the help of these members as well as the teacher (if necessary), they can thoroughly understand the assigned part. Afterwards, within the jigsaw groups, as stated earlier, students have to move around the class and have the opportunity to work with the students that they might have never worked with before. For this reason, the jigsaw classroom increases the students’ enjoyment of the learning experience. Moreover, students rely upon each other to get information of the parts which they do not read and each person has an opportunity to provide something important to the others. Therefore, the jigsaw technique helps them comprehend the text/topic more thoroughly within a shorter time and promotes better learning. Furthermore, it, to some extent, may save time and energy for both students and teachers. In addition, each student must take part in the jigsaw classroom activities, oth- erwise, the others will fail. Thus, the jigsaw technique improves student motivation and responsibility. Last but not least, students might feel that they can work independently without having to count on their teachers as their teachers are not the only providers of knowledge. As a result, this strategy is likely to enhance students’ self-confidence. 2.3. Steps for jigsaw classroom According to Lestik and Plous (2000), the jigsaw classroom is very simple to use with the following 10 steps: 1) Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and ability. 2) Appoint one student from each group as the leader. Initially, this person should be the most mature student in the group. 3) Divide the day’s lesson into 5-6 segments. For example, if you want history students to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt, you might divide a short biography of her into stand-alone segments on: (3.1) Her childhood, (3.2) Her family life with Franklin and their children, (3.3) Her life after Franklin contracted polio, (3.4) Her work in the White House as First Lady, and (5) Her life and work after Franklin’s death. 4) Assign each student to learn one segment, making sure students have direct access only to their own segment. 5) Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. There is no need for them to memorize it. 56 The jigsaw technique brings reading lessions to life 6) Form temporary "expert groups" by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment. Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. 7) Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups. 8) Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group. Encourage others in the group to ask questions for clarification. 9) Float from group to group, observing the process. If any group is having trouble (e.g., a member is dominating or disruptive), make an appropriate interven- tion. Eventually, it’s best for the group leader to handle this task. Leaders can be trained by whispering an instruction on how to intervene, until the leader gets the hang of it. 10) At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material so that students quickly come to realize that these sessions are not just fun and games but really count. The above 10 steps can be taken precisely or each teacher may have their own steps so that they are able to make the best of their jigsaw classes in order to achieve their various goals for different classes. As the writer observed in her English classes of non-English-major students at Hanoi National University of Education (HNUE), her students always sat among the students with whom they felt close and could easily have an interesting chat, and hardly did they change their seat. If, for some reasons, they could not sit next to their favourite friends in class, they would love to sit alone. Consequently, the students might work in the same group day after day. Hence, the researcher wants to create an opportunity for her students to work with various students in the class. In addition, some hard-working students often prepared the reading sections at home. For instance, they might look the new vocabulary up in the dictionary, and fulfill the reading tasks, etc. As a result, while the whole class read the text at class, these students had nothing to do, and could find it boring. Therefore, the teacher can make the reading part unpredictable to the students by changing the sequence of the parts arranged in the English textbook in one unit or in two units. For example, in the Life Lines textbook, the reading section usually occurs after the grammar section. The teacher can start the new unit with the reading section first instead of the grammar one. Or sometimes the teacher can ask her or his students to do the reading section of unit 9 while teaching unit 7, and so forth. And following is the example of how the researcher carries out her own jigsaw reading class of 36 students: 1) Divide the class into 6 expert groups of 6 students. The students in these 57 Nguyen Tam Trang expert groups are the students sitting in the same rows of tables or near-by rows of tables. 2) Let the students in the expert groups randomly pick the pieces of paper on which printed the numbers from 1 to 6. Ask them to remember their numbers. 3) Divide the reading text into 6 segments of the same length. 4) Assign each group to read one segment and make sure each group only gain access to their assigned segment. As the reading texts are available in the book, the teacher must type the text at home, print it, then cut it into segments. 5) Give the students time to read and understand the segment thoroughly. During this stage, the students can discuss with one another or ask their teacher for explanation if necessary. 6) Bring the students to their jigsaw groups formed by the students having the same number. 7) Appoint one student to be the leader of the jigsaw group. This student might be the most mature or the most hard-working or the best student of the group. 8) Ask each student to present her/his segment to the group. Within this stage, under the control of the leader as well as the teacher, each student can dictate their segments in English then translate them into Vietnamese and explain the new vocabulary and grammatical structures. Encourage other members in the jigsaw groups to ask any questions for clarification. 9) Finally, ask the students to do the reading tasks in the book. 2.4. Tips on implementation Much as the jigsaw technique has the above-mentioned advantages, it has not always been undertaken smoothly. For example, the poor readers or slow thinkers may confront many difficulties as presenting their segments to the jigsaw group. On the other hand, some students can have such a talent that they can find it boring when working with the slower students. Moreover, it is likely that these talented students talk all the time or try to control their groups. Will the jigsaw technique work effectively in these situations? Firstly, to deal with the problem of slow students, the jigsaw technique counts on the expert groups. After working with this group, even slow students, thanks to the help of other members in the group and the teacher as well, can become the “experts” in terms of the segments that they are in charge of. Whenever they have any problem in comprehending the segments, they can ask their friends or their teacher for further explanation. Hence, this may finally lead to better presentation of the slow students in front of the jigsaw groups’ members. 58 The jigsaw technique brings reading lessions to life Secondly, to overcome the problem of the dominant students or the bright students becoming bored, the teacher can appoint them to be the leader of the group. They are the people who can run the work of the expert groups as well as the jigsaw groups. Besides, they also may help the slower students comprehend their segments quicker and better by clarifying anything that the slower students can have problem with. The experience of being in the position of a leader or “a temporary teacher” like this might enable the bright students to feel more excited and more challenging. 3. Conclution After applying the jigsaw technique in a diversity of classes, the researcher realises that it is a cooperative teaching method which has lots of strengths over other traditional reading teaching methods. Within the jigsaw classroom, the students are capable of assisting and supporting each other so as to, first, comprehend the text, then fulfill the assigned reading tasks. This experience can give them much more confidence to face with any reading difficulties. Hence, it is suggested to try applying this technique to the English reading classes of both English-major and non-English- major students and realize the differences as well as advantages that it can create in the classes. Nevertheless, in spite of its advantages, the jigsaw technique is definitely not a cure-all in any circumstances. Within the limited scope of this research, the writer can only build up a general picture of the jigsaw technique in reading teaching. This research might be more interesting if the writer can conduct a further research which includes the control group and the experimental group. The former will read some texts individually while the latter is instructed to read the same texts using the jigsaw reading technique. In addition, the pre- and post-tests are also employed so that the researcher can figure out whether the experimental students can read better than the control ones. Furthermore, the researcher will design the questionnaire to find out the students’ feeling about the jigsaw classroom. Hopefully, such a research may provide an insight into how beneficial the jigsaw technique can be to both the teachers and the students. REFERENCES [1] M. Ali, 2001. The Effect of Using the Jigsaw Reading Technique on the EFL Pre-service Teachers’ Reading Anxiety and Comprehension. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from the World Wide Web: [2] C. Bafile, 2008. The ‘Jigsaw’ Approach Brings Lessons to Life. Retrieved Febru- ary 27, 2010 from the World Wide Web: curr/curr324.shtml. 59 Nguyen Tam Trang [3] D. Buehl, 1997. The Jigsaw Strategy: Students Put Pieces of Read- ing Together. Retrieved February 27, 2010 from the World Wide Web: jigsaw.aspx. [4] P. L. Carrell, 1981. Culture-specific schemata in L2 comprehension. In R. Orem, &J. Haskell (Eds.).Selected papers from the Ninth Illinois TESOL/BE Annual Convention, First Midwest TESOL Conference, Chicago: Illinois, pp. 123-132. [5] E. Coelho, 1982. Creating Jigsaw Units for the ESL Classroom: How to develop units for cooperative learning in the communicative curriculum. TESL Talk, 13, No. 3, pp. 128-136. [6] R. Epstein, 1991. Literacy Through Cooperative Learning: The Jigsaw Reading Technique. Retrieved February 26, 2010 from the World Wide Web: /detailmini.jsp?-nfpb=true&-&ERICExtSearch-SearchValue-0=ED343100& ERICExtSearch-SearchType-0=no&accno=ED343100. [7] S. Ledlow, 1996. Using Jigsaw in the College Classroom. Retrieved February 29, 2010 from the World Wide Web: [8] M. Lestik and S. Plous, 2000. Jigsaw Classroom. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: [9] M. Morris, 2009. Jigsaw Reading to Promote Autonomous Learn- ing. Retrieved March 2, 2010 from the World Wide Web:
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