Jigsaw Phrases

Jigsaw Phrases: A Quick Review Activity

A review is an important part of the lesson, but students can feel intimidated if you ask them what they studied in the previous lesson. They may struggle to say what they studied, they may give you unexpected answers, or they may forget. Using key words is a common way to help trigger the students’ memory.

Back in October of 2014 I first wrote about an activity called Recall. Recall was a PowerPoint activity that encourages learners to remember phrases and use their working memory to actively recall them. The learners’ first steps in acquiring new language.

The downside of recall is that it doesn’t cross lessons very well. The phrases are introduced before being hidden, but it’s not useful if we want to hide just part of a phrase and allow the students some time to review their notes, talk to each other and try to remember the phrases that came up in the previous class.

We need to use a different technique, a simple trick to help students review phrases.

Jigsaw Phrases - Before and After
Before and After Screenshot of Jigsaw Phrases – PowerPoint 2013
On the left there are four phrases, they may have been introduced in the previous lesson.  On the right we have the same four phrases but with key words covered up. I’ve come to call these ‘jigsaw phrases’ because they look like there is a missing piece from a jigsaw puzzle.

This differs from a gap fill exercise because the students aren’t expected to write anything, the remaining words are only there to act as prompts to help the students remember the phrases.

The Activity

In pairs or groups ask the students to talk together to try and remember the partial phrases on the screen. The students may review their coursebooks and notes.

Elicit the phrases from the students and ask them to practice them in pairs or groups before hiding the phrases and giving the students a follow-up activity to recycle the phrases. The kind of follow-up activity you use will depend on the level of your students and the size of your class.

I often use this activity and I think it is a great way to dovetail the lessons and it gives the students the chance to reflect on what they have studied and to recycle the language.

Creating the Activity 

Although I prefer to use PowerPoint for this activity, there are various way to present this activity to suit whatever resources are available in the classroom.

  • With PowerPoint
  • Printing a Handout
  • Using Board work
  • Asking students to draw their own speech bubbles on scrap paper.

With PowerPoint

In this video tutorial I will show you how to create this very simple activity.

The video is available to download:
Click play and then click on share in the top left-hand corner. Select download and the video will appear in a new tab in your browser. Right click on the video and select 'save as' to download the file.

The two techniques that are useful for creating this activity are grouping objects and merging shapes.

 Printing a Handout

Don’t worry if you don’t have the option of using PowerPoint in the classroom, it is very easy to create a handout.

Follow all the steps in the video and when you have finished go to file. Select print and select black and white in your color settings. Print the slide onto a piece of blank A4 paper and you have a master copy that can easily be photocopied for your students or one copy can be used on a OHC (Overhead Camera) if you have one available in your classroom.

Printing Jigsaw Phrases

The activity works in exactly the same way as above, the only downside is that as a paper based resource, it reproduces notes that your students should already have taken. Because of this, I think the fewer copies the better. Try limiting it to one copy per group, or a single copy that can be viewed by the entire class.

Board work or Paper based

If you only have a white board or a black board, this extremely low-prep activity can be presented with clear board work.

Reviewing Phrases
Example of reviewing phrases on the white board
The downside is that you cannot save the phrases for a future review class.

There is also the option of allowing your students to choose a phrase and remove key words from it. The phrases can be written on scrap pieces of paper, collected and redistributed to new groups.

It may be better to have the students talk together in small groups to choose the phrases, rather than individually. This may be useful if you have students that find it difficult to make a decision without more guidance.

 If you have any questions about how to create these ‘Jigsaw Phrases’, please leave me a message in the comments.

Alternatively you can send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Take Care!

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