Not all students like jigsaw puzzles, but most like any opportunity to work together, especially when working somewhere other than their desks. With this activity, your kids will put together “puzzles” of images related to the current unit and then will complete an academic task.
Prep Work—Print out 5-10 pictures that are related to the unit you are introducing or reviewing (I try to make sure no more than 3 students are working together on this so the size of your class will determine how many images you use). Then cut each image into pieces of different shapes and sizes (like a puzzle). I use a binder clip to keep each set together and I put the puzzle pieces (with a piece of paper, that will be important later!) in parts of the classroom where students don’t typically work (sometimes I’ve even used the windowsills!).
In class—divide your class into pairs or triplets. Send each pair/triplet to one of the “puzzles” with a pen or pencil. Once all the groups have their picture puzzle pieces and blank paper, tell them they need to arrange the pieces together to “solve the jigsaw puzzle.” Once they have the image put together, they should collaborate on a historically appropriate title/caption for the image and write it on the paper.
Then, if you are using this as an introductory activity I recommend having students write how they think the image will relate to the unit OR what they remember about it from a previous school year.
To use this as a review activity (my personal preference), I have students write one academic item they remember about the picture (such as who is in it, what event is depicted, how it is a cause or an effect of something, when it happened, the point of view, etc).
If you have extra time, the paper stays with the image and your students rotate to the rest of the “puzzles” to add their own statement of preview or review, in addition to their own title/caption. The challenge is that as the students rotate, they shouldn’t repeat anything on the paper.
If you have even more time, once the students are all back at their original image, they can tape the pieces together and create a timeline along the front of the room with the pictures, or if you need to reuse the pieces with another class, you can have a group discussion on what the chronology of the images should be (or any cause and effect connections, etc, depending on the pictures you chose).
For more review ideas, I’d recommend these three student favorites: An Easy Way to Encourage Higher Level Thinking, True, False, Fix: A Social Studies Review Game, and A Review Game Your Students Will LOVE. If you try this out, I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine do!