Have you tried puzzle centers in your school library?
Last week, I received this question from Candace C.:
“After my first center rotation I am feeling overwhelmed and not as confident as I did before I started. Even a simple puzzle station seemed to be a disaster. How do you keep your puzzle pieces from getting mixed up and do you leave them out for kids to keep adding to or do you only use small puzzles?”
Here’s how puzzle centers work at our elementary school library.
One Puzzle at a Time
I only put out one puzzle at a time. This way, the pieces of different puzzles don’t get mixed up with each other. That puzzle stays out for a week, and then it’s packed up and replaced by a different puzzle the next week.
My collection includes :
- educational puzzles, like the Melissa and Doug puzzles with planets or maps
- reading promotional puzzles, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (I’ve found these at Walmart and Target.)
- just for fun puzzles, like I Spy (I’ve found these at Target.)
100 Pieces or Less
I’ve learned over time that 100 pieces are the upper limit of what our students feel confident to tackle. Larger puzzles seem to overwhelm them, and they won’t even start working on them.
I was surprised that even 5th graders will work on the easier 24-piece puzzles. They usually complete them from start to finish in one class visit.
For the larger puzzles, one class starts working on the puzzle, and we leave the partially completed puzzle out for the next class to work on. When a class completes the puzzle, I leave it out for the remainder of that class’s library visit because they are so proud of their accomplishment. As soon as they leave, I break it apart and the next class starts the puzzle all over again.
A Sign for Every Center
As you know, I don’t ever set up a learning center without a sign stating my expectations and the learning objectives.
Here’s a PDF sign you can download to start a puzzle center in YOUR library! Click here to grab the file from my Google drive.
Display Books at Puzzle Centers
I find books related to the puzzle and display them on the table with the puzzle center. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect a student with a “just right” book! For example, if we are working on a planet puzzle, I display planet books!
More Benefits of Puzzles
Why do I set up puzzle centers in our library? In addition to the AASL standard of working productively with others, jigsaw puzzles also help students in these ways:
- problem solving
- fine motor skills
- hand and eye coordination
- the satisfaction of achieving a goal
Have you tried puzzle centers in your school library? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!