Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jigsaw with some Improvements

A recurring theme in my posts has to do with the constraints I face in my History class due to dept tests that, in their current form, tend to focus on students knowing a little about a lot. What I have blogged about less is my Econ class, an elective.

In Econ, I have considerably more flexibility.

Though far from innovative, something I have been doing with my Econ students that works really well is that when I want to expose them to concepts and details, rather than create and deliver a slideshow or play a video clip, I have them read a section of the text and create and present a slideshow on that section.

Having regular access to Chromebooks, and finding a decent textbook online,  has made this process much easier.

I only have 15 students in the class, so giving students a chance to present each time is really easy.

Some tips if you choose to do this...

I am sure to preview each slideshow before students present, so that I can identify gaps or, more commonly, mistakes or misunderstandings that worked there way into the slideshow.  

I will often edit the slideshows, cutting out sections or details that I know may be unnecessary for where we are headed in the course. (One thing I need to do more of is to talk to students about some of their design, layout choices. So, over time, they will not make the same mistakes: too wordy, color combinations that distract, awkwardly placed images, to name a few.)

I am careful to keep groups to 3 or 4 students and am thoughtful about who is working together.

I will interject a lot during students’ presentations. I warned them going in that this was the best way for us to learn from each other. Since they are almost always learning about these concepts for the first time, left on their own, students will often just repeat what the text has said. It is important for me to go beyond the text and help students make connections as they are learning about the concepts mentioned in the text and on their slides.

I have students write comprehension questions that they think someone who understands the big ideas and concepts in their presentation ought to be able to answer. They share the questions and a key with me.

I also will write a lot of comprehension questions based on the chapter’s content.

My questions plus the student generated questions will be one way that I can help students evaluate their learning.   


  1. A good powerpoint rule of thumb that I teach my students is the Rule of 6, no more than 6 words per line and no more than six lines per slide. While 36 words is a lot, it's a good starting point for them to learn how to clarify and bullet point their material. A colleague of mine does a presentation at the beginning of the year with his kids on how to make the worst powerpoint ever, which makes the kids laugh, but they start to get how contrasting colors, pictures, fonts, sizes and layouts have an effect. Hope this helps!

  2. It does, thanks Christina! Sorry for not thanking you sooner :)