Three years ago during summer prep I found myself in need of an evidence-based strategy to fulfill the learning needs of my students. Previously I had used peer-assisted learning such as Collaborative Strategic Reading or CSR, which although effective didn’t necessarily elevate my students into the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I wanted my diverse group of students to leave my history class with the ability to think for themselves. Learning new vocabulary and applying inference would still be important but adding value to the multitude of voices became my priority.
So why is providing value to a marginalized student’s voice essential for a teacher? The answer can be found in a traditional classroom based on dated pedagogy. The classroom where the teacher’s voice is the most important followed by the “smartest” kids in the class. In such a classroom everyone else watches the show afraid or hesitant to speak. Typically the watchers tend to be the underprivileged or marginalized of our society.
When done correctly Jigsaw gives every student an opportunity to have their voice heard. The teacher operates as a facilitator but there is no doubt that Jigsaw is student-centered. Using this strategy alone tells the student, “Your voice matters.” Starting in smaller expert groups students often are more inclined to speak while also hearing other perspectives. The social aspect of Jigsaw is beneficial as well but I have personally seen engagement levels increase across the board. As teachers we can provide the framework, opportunity, and expectations of our students. That old defeatist saying,”They don’t want to learn” is partially correct. Students don’t want to learn in a classroom where their voice isn’t valued. Would you?
Andre Williams teaches history and law at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, N.M.