What is jigsaw listening?

It’s an information gap activity. Each learner listens to a different recording or part of a recording. Then, they work in pairs/groups to exchange information in order to complete a task.


Active listening.

Students need to do something with the information they hear. Knowing they will have to make some decisions in the next stage, they engage with the content at a deeper level.

Authentic task.

In the real world people will often discuss what they watched on TV or listened to on the radio.

Collaborative task.

Learners feel less pressure working together towards an outcome, whereas individual listening activities usually cause more anxiety.

Reciprocal listening.

It helps increase student-to-student interaction unlike typical teacher-fronted listening classes.

Communicative task.

Students focus on meaning and might employ useful strategies such as asking for repetition/clarification, paralinguistic means, word coinage, and circumlocution to compensate for communication breakdowns.


Everybody plays a part. The teacher stands back while learners take the stage. Hello intrinsic motivation!

Why I never used it in face-to-face classes.

It wasn’t easy to provide students with different recordings, as well as devices/headphones, or put them in different rooms. They didn’t always bring their mobile phones or they were running out of battery, or there wasn’t enough space in the academy and so on.

In an online setting, jigsaw tasks are SO much easier to set up, as we can simply send students different (links to) audio files in the chat box or via Google classroom. We then mute their microphones while they listen to their recording and once they have, they can go to breakout rooms to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Here are some basic jigsaw listening ideas:

1. Similarities and differences.

Send learners different recordings. It could be different news stories, full songs or just the chorus, different perspectives on the same topic. Then, they work together to compare the content of these recordings. How are they similar/different?

2. Part to whole.

Find/ create a number of recordings about the life of an actor, athlete or any other famous person your students admire, to engage them in the task. Each student listens to their part, then they work in groups and share facts to put the biography together . They pay attention to what is said, so that they don’t repeat the same information. They can also discuss what impressed/surprised them the most.

3. Rank and justify.

Send learners different recordings about different options, e.g. top travel destinations, film/book reviews, top Universities, etc. After listening, they compare all the options, rank them in order of preference and justify their choice.

4. Content and coherence.

Use any text from your coursebook or an authentic text. Record yourself (or a colleague) reading the text. Chop the audio file into several parts depending on the number of students. Students listen to one part each and then jointly rearrange the text.

5. Extra challenge: Narrative completion

Record yourself (or a colleague) reading a story. Cut the recording into chunks. Give students one part each but leave out the final part. Students reconstruct the story and guess the ending in groups/ pairs. Then, they listen to the last part and check if they guessed right or see who came closest to finding the right answer!


  1. Instead of simply asking students to exchange information verbally, you can also prepare worksheets that they can complete together, as they work on the task.
  2. There can be a writing component: after exchanging information, students write the story, biography or a for and against essay based on what they discovered during the lesson. A good way to consolidate learning and focus on accuracy. They can do it collaboratively or individually.

Tools for cutting videos/ audio files online.

YouTube trimmer


Further links..

Ted Talks: Jigsaw Listening – Mobile phones is a FANTASTIC and free jigsaw listening plan with downloadable materials included (PowerPoint& worksheets).

4 things you don’t know about the jigsaw method is an excellent post where you can read about the history of the method, as well as watch a how-to-set it up video. Particularly useful if you’re teaching large classes.

https://strategiesforspecialinterventions.weebly.com/jigsaw1.html for more tips on how to set up jigsaw tasks: useful for CLIL teachers.

Hope you found this useful. Feel free to comment and share 🙂

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