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Jigsawing - A Creative Way To Learn Some Challenging Concepts
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"I want to play a game."

Unfortunately the above quote appearing with the word jigsaw is unlikely to bring you to a teaching strategy which is very successful in Biology. It is more likely to take to a series of movies which get exponentially worse the more of them they make!

Jigsawing is a good technique for studying concepts and biographies. Broadly speaking, the idea is to take a section of text, preferably one you have written or typed yourself, and cut it into strips. I know this is one thing we have longed to do with our work at times!

Cut the pieces into any size or shape you like. Shuffle them and place them face up in front of you. In order to fit the pieces of the puzzle back together, you will need to read through the text again. The smaller the pieces, the more important this step becomes. This activity is easily adapted to group work as each group can be given information from a different biography or concept and once they complete the jigsaw, can then explain they key points to the rest of the class.

Think of jigsawing this way: if you cut a sheet in half, you should be able to put the halves back together without reading anything. A similar thing occurs if the sheet is in quarters. However as the pieces get smaller it becomes less obvious where they fit and more important to read the text to understand how the passage fits together. So jigsawing is something you can use to challenge your students at a number of different levels.

I have used jigsawing with tricky concepts such as protein synthesis. I like presenting information in the form of cartoons. The 'Cartoon Guide' series is excellent for gathering stimulus material for this sort of activity and I have used the Cartoon Guide to Genetics to prepare jigsaws on protein synthesis, DNA replication and gene [removed]Operon Theory). In these cases, you can cut the comic strip up into cells. Students then need to reassemble the cells in the correct order. This can be done through words or pictures.

Jigsawing can be a fun way to introduce a concept or as a summary at the end of a section of work to test student understanding in a different way.

Technology can also be used to facilitate jigsawing. Concept animations which test student ideas can be split into individual scenes (or cels) and then put back together. Paint can also be used in this way. Creative teachers, or students, can construct a sequence of paint images which have a particular order. Provided they are not saved with the file names 1, 2, 3, etc, they can be given to other groups to put into an order and then shared with the rest of the group.

Integrating technology into science education provides a wealth of opportunity for incorporating different learning experiences in the teaching of familiar or challenging concepts. Jigsawing is just one of many ways of incorporating technology into your science teaching.

Why not give jigsawing a try next time you want to teach one of those tricky concepts. Just avoid using it with dissections, or the link to the movie series above may be a little too close for comfort.


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