Puzzles are a perfect toy for teaching new skills. They tend to hold students’ attention because they have clear beginning and ending points. Children can usually look at a puzzle and know what to do with it without further explanation.
We think about the skills our students need to learn or build upon and sometimes use puzzles as a vehicle for learning those new skills.
Sensory – Many of our students have an aversion to different textures. Hiding puzzle pieces within textured materials, such as these beans, will encourage children to experience novel sensory sensations.
Matching Shape with Picture – This is a commercially-made puzzle that has pictures of the puzzle pieces in the spaces. You can easily make such an activity with puzzles you have by copying the pieces, cutting them out, and placing pictures of the pieces in the slots where the pieces fit. We might use this adapted puzzle with beginning students who are not yet seeing how shapes match up but understand how pictures match. We would also use it with another student who may be great at matching shapes but not yet matching pictures.
Jigsaws – To help student tackle easy jigsaw puzzles, we might add colored dots on the backs of the pieces and onto the spaces where the pieces fit. Even though the students must figure out how to rotate the pieces to make a fit, the matching dots help narrow down where they go.
Personalize – Printing a picture of a familiar item (such as Mommy’s van), cutting the photo into pieces, placing Velcro on the backs and on the laminated paper where puzzle assembly goes easily makes a puzzle that is personalized for the student. For such an activity, we often choose familiar items whose names the students need to learn to comprehend and say.
Social with Teacher – In this scenario, the teacher has the puzzle pieces and encourages the child to ask for the one he wants to place into the puzzle. To make it more fun, the teacher rolls the piece to him in the dump truck and he dumps it out before placing in the puzzle. In this way, a familiar puzzle becomes the tool for socializing with his teacher in a fun game.
Social with Peer – Students, each with a puzzle, sit across from each other. Between them is a bin with pieces from both puzzles hidden in beans. Students dig into the beans and retrieve a puzzle piece; they decide whether the piece belongs in their puzzle or their peer’s puzzle. If it is the peer’s piece, we encourage the peer to ask for it. The visual attached to the bin is a reminder of what she might say in requesting: “Give ______________.”
Literacy – Placing the written word in the spaces when using a puzzle of everyday objects, such as this food one, helps students practice reading the words.
We always encourage looking at tasks from many differing angles. How can the task be used for a variety of purposes and how can we structure each task for a variety of skill levels? For more information on creating tasks and individualizing them, please visit our website www.tasksgalore.com