Jigsaw activities — where, like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of information fit together to make one picture in the end — are great in the EFL classroom. First of all, they automatically provide motivation by giving students a reason to communicate: they need their partner’s information to finish the activity. Second, they usually involve speaking and pairwork which means students gets more time speaking than they would one at a time as part of a group.
It can be as simple as two similar but not identical copies of a text. My text is missing information (John Lennon was born in ___) and I have to ask my partner questions to fill in the blank (When was John Lennon born?). It could be something like a family tree diagram where a pair has to work together to complete the diagram without showing each other their papers (saying “Sally is John’s aunt” and so on). Or it may be that half the class reads one text, the other half reads another text, and they pair up and tell the other about their text, perhaps finding similarities or differences.
One of my favorite jigsaw activities is the crossword puzzle. These are generally specially made for TEFL and you can find a few good ones in Vocabulary Games and Activities as well as in the Rewards Resource Packs. Student A gets a grid with half of the answers filled in, and Student B gets a grid with the other half of the answers. There are no written clues; the students make the clues up themselves by explaining the word they see. The partner has to listen and look at the number of letters and guess. Crossword puzzles done in this way involve speaking, listening, and vocabulary skills — and the ability to explain a word, or figure out a word from an explanation, is a very practical one that students will use all the time in the real world trying to communicate in English. Download your own crossword puzzle-making software from the Internet TESL Journal.