Exemplar Jigsaw


This activity immerses students within a particular format, genre, or style of work, and guides them towards recognizing its characteristics, features, and purpose. Using a jigsaw format, students analyze exemplars in pairs, then “teach” their exemplar to another classmate. Finally, students synthesize what they have learned about the format, genre, or style of work.


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Synthesizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Text-Based Answers


  • Select two to four good exemplars of the target format, genre, or style of work.

  • Determine the key features of the format, genre, or style under consideration and make a list of these features.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher provides a general mini-lesson on the general meaning of format, genre, or style and shares examples of these that students are already familiar with.
    • Teacher introduces the format, genre, or style students will be focusing on.
    • Form your own ideas of what characterizes this genre ahead of time, so that you can guide students during the creation of the anchor chart and as you lead mini-conferences.  
  2. Students get into pairs. Each pair is given one or two exemplars of the format, genre, or style of work.
    • Half the students should be given one set of texts, half another set. Students examine their exemplars, and create a list of the key elements or characteristics that they notice in the exemplars. They should also record the element or characteristic, or note where and how it is used in the exemplar.
    • You will likely want to select fairly short texts that clearly demonstrate the key elements or characteristics that you identified.​
    • As students work, you will want to circulate among them and engage them in five-minute mini-conferences about their thoughts.



  3. Students regroup so that each student is paired with someone new. Students “teach” the texts they read to their new partners. They describe the basic content and format of the text and the key features they noticed.

    This part of the activity is called “jigsaw,” and it allows students to benefit from both listening and teaching as they learn.   

  4. In their new groups, and considering all the exemplars, students create a list of the key features of the target format, genre, or style.

    Provide students with a copy of the Analyzing Exemplars graphic organizer to use as they organize their ideas.

  5. Class discusses what they noticed, and class creates an anchor chart describing the key features of the genre. Class discusses the purpose of this genre, and why people would write or read this genre.

    This anchor chart should ultimately contain all the key characteristics that you initially identified. Display it in the room throughout the unit.

  6. In writing, students respond to questions such as:



    • What are the key features of this format, genre, or style?  

    • Describe a scenario when someone might choose to use this format, genre, or style, and why.  


    • What learning strategies are most effective when you are attempting to describe this format, genre, or style?  

    • How can your understanding of this format, genre, or style help you to analyze a text or exemplar?


    Students can respond in journals or exit tickets.  

    Questions should be edited to specify format, genre, or style.

Downloadable Resources 
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