Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Human Jigsaw

Carla Lovett


Using Thomas Paine's "The Crisis, No. 1" from [The American Crisis], students form a human jigsaw as they find the main idea, supporting details, persuasive arguments, imagery, and emotional appeals. Prior experience with the elements listed is assumed.


The student determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, methods of development, and their effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

The student understands the use of images and sounds to elicit the reader's emotions in both fiction and nonfiction.

The student analyzes the relationships among author's style, literary form, and intended impact on the reader.


-"The Crisis, No. 1" from [The American Crisis], a series of tracts concerning the revolution in America by Thomas Paine (in most American literature texts)
-Copies of "The Crisis, No. 1" Jigsaw Worksheet (See Associated File)
-Pen or pencil


1.Download "The Crisis, No.1" Jigsaw Worksheet from the Associated File and make a copy for each student.
2.Read "The Crisis, No. 1" by Thomas Paine and identify the main idea, supporting details, persuasive arguments, vivid imagery, and emotional appeals.


1. Tell students that today they will form a human jigsaw puzzle as they practice finding the main idea, supporting details, persuasive arguments, imagery, and emotional appeals in "The Crisis, No. 1," a tract from a series of tracts concerning the revolution called [The American Crisis] by Thomas Paine. (5 minutes)

2. Ask students to read "The Crisis, No. 1" individually. (15 minutes)

3. Divide students into five groups of five or six groups of six, depending on the number of students in class. Any number of groups will work, but it is best if you have the same number of students in each group as there are total groups. Give each student a copy of "The Crisis, No.1" Jigsaw Worksheet. (See Associated File.) Explain to students that each group works together to answer the questions on the worksheet as thoroughly as possible. Tell students that if they disagree on one point or another, they should discuss the issue until they can come to a consensus. Tell students to record their group findings under the heading "Initial Group" for each question on the worksheet. (35 minutes)

4. After the initial group has completed their portion of the worksheet, tell students that it is time to form the jigsaw. Instruct one person from each group to join another group so that the five or six groups are now comprised of one person from each of the original groups. Tell students that in their newly formed groups, each person shares the findings of the original groups. Explain to students that they should compare the answers found in each group. Tell them that if they discover differences among initial group answers, they must discuss the answers and come to a consensus on whether they will record those answers on their worksheets. Tell students to record their findings for this group under the heading "Jigsaw Group" for each question on the worksheet. (35 minutes)

5. At the end of class, ask students to turn in their completed worksheets. Collect the assignment and assess. (See Assessment.)


Use -The Crisis, No. 1- Jigsaw Worksheet to formatively asses the students’ ability to identify:
-the main idea
-supporting details
-persuasive arguments
-vivid imagery
-emotional appeals

Keep in mind that all groups may not have the same answers that you do for examples of details, imagery, etc. If students’ answers vary from yours, be willing to listen to their reasoning behind their answers. If the reasoning is valid and is supported by the text, you should accept their answer.

Note: Because this lesson is done in groups, additional practice/assessment is necessary to be certain that each individual is able to meet the standards addressed. This lesson is intended as one of many opportunities for students to practice these skills.


1. Students can be assigned the reading of “The Crisis, No. 1” for homework on the day before the lesson so that they come to class prepared to get into the first group.
2. A follow-up discussion with the class at the end of the period or during the next class meeting would allow everyone to hear the differences and similarities in the answers of all groups. The goal of this discussion would be to reach a consensus as an entire class.
3. The human jigsaw concept can be adapted to almost any material your students may be using.
4. This lesson can be extended to one and a half or two class periods to allow each group more time to find more specifics from the text or to allow additional time for students to read “The Crisis, No. 1.”
5. The first line of “The Crisis, No. 1” is “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Have students write an essay in which they agree or disagree that these are still the times that try men’s souls and tell why or why not.

Web Links

Web supplement for The Human Jigsaw
A Hypertext on American History: A Biography of Thomas Paine

Attached Files

“The Crisis, No. 1” Jigsaw Worksheet.     File Extension: pdf

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