Setting Up Challenging Jigsaw Competitions

Words Can Become a Blur

In the context of the book Virtual and Traditional Jigsaws in the Classroom, we look at the strategies students use to solve jigsaw puzzles.  This process encourages the students to think about their thinking.  But when looking at broader questions, thinking might be stimulated by questions that can help in a bridging process.  Our aim is to help students learn how to transfer knowledge.

Words Can Become Just a Blur Jigsaw Puzzle of the Day …………………….Warning: Today’s Jigsaw is

Very Hard!!

You may also want the students to ‘stay with’ one image rather than move on.  I will show what I mean more clearly by designing a very complex jigsaw that requires the students “stay with” a chart of great importance.  For example an International Phonetics Chart can be quite plain, and students may lose focus quite quickly.  Because it is plain it can be hard for the student to want to keep focusing on the chart as they work with text.  One of the small ‘booklets’ (themed group of lessons) keeps the students working with the symbols over a length of time by making an ever increasingly challenging game revolve around the chart. (This should be release early next week.)

Varieties of Jigsaw Competitions.

When engaging in jigsaw competitions participants can work in groups or alone.  The aim is to see who finishes first as the level of complexity increases.   But this is not the only way to competitively challenge the students!  As well as increase the level of complexity you may make the whole scenario challenging by having the students design and create a jigsaw from scratch.  They can gain pints for such things as design, neatness (which will slow them down), innovativeness etc.   In the end they may be competing to see whose jigsaw is eventually published as a class room resource.

Time Limits.

Some people call increasing the level of difficulty “upping the anti.”   Play with the idea of upping the anti so that this is what the class anticipates will happen. (Put the pressure on in a safe way.)

One of the ways of Upping the Anti is to have everyone in the class do the same jigsaw and they have to start at the exact same time.  Jigzone in this  Thinking Strategies Jigsaw Puzzle has a timer and so does National Geographics: Your Shots.

Working Blind

Most people when they do jigsaws rely (at least in part) on the image on the lid of the box.  This means that they have a general idea of what they are trying to do. If your students are making their own jigsaws they will have a head start piecing it together because they know the image so well.   As the class becomes better at strategising jigsaw assemblage, the group will start to ask for harder images.  But making the image more complex is only one of the ways that you can increase the difficulty of the task.   The task should be just hard enough to really challenge the group but not so hard that they become overwhelmed and “switch off.

Working blind involves not allowing the use of a completed image as a reference.  In the classroom using real hard copy you would take away the lid of the box.  In the virtual environment of Your Shots when the pieces scatter the image disappears.  In there is still a small image over to the left for the students to take a “sneaky peak”.  The capacity to complete an image is much easier if the participant can see the image.

Team Work

To enhance team work why not have one student with the image on the lid giving instructions but no other member allowed to see the completed image?  This will be particularly difficult if there is a lot of blank space in the image ensuring that it is hard for the one “who knows” to tell others where to put the pieces.

Don’t forget the point of it all is to become knowledgeable about

  • thinking about how we think (This is called Metacognition)
  • learning how to learning (Life Long Learning)
  • focusing forever (OK it only feels that way but learning to focus on hard topics is really essential for students who wish to master their material)

I will be finishing the short booklet over the weekend.  So if you have any other ideas about how to “Up the Anti”  please do make suggestions in the comment area. Love to hear your thoughts……


  • Murphy,J. (2013)  Global Citizens Creative Arts Text. Insights and Activities. Kindle.

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