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March 21, 2013 My Giant Jigsaw Puzzle Book Project By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Last week I shared how my students investigate the mystery genre. During the first two weeks of our genre study, all students choose one book to analyze with the help of a set of graphic organizers. At the end of every genre study, I like to do some sort of culminating book project that ties together everything we have learned.

    During this next phase, my 3rd graders apply the knowledge they have of mystery story structure in an eight-part book report completed in class.




    Materials Needed:

    • Mystery book you have finished
    • Book project packet
    • 18”x 12” posterboard or tagboard
    • Yardstick
    • Materials for coloring/scissors/glue
    • 8 x 12 envelope
    • Full page printed photograph of each completed poster


    The Written Report

    After completing at least one mystery, each student receives a second packet for their mystery case file that includes all of the directions for each section of their report, along with lined paper upon which they can write their first draft. Before they begin, however, I go over each section of the report, explaining the directions and establishing my expectations for quality writing.

    Click the image above to download a reproducible book project packet  and rubric for your students.


    While most students are able to independently work their way through the report writing, I do check up on them in individual conferences and small group meetings. Proofreading while they are working and helping them to correct small errors saves editing time when it comes to publishing. 

    Each page of the packet will become one of eight puzzle pieces. Each piece will represent a story element:

    • Piece 1: This first piece includes the book title, author, student name, and an illustration. My students complete this on Print Shop using a resized image of the book cover found on an Internet search.
    • Piece 2: Where does the story take place and how is the setting important to the mystery?
    • Piece 3: Students now add a description of the characters and the character traits that help them solve the mystery.
    • Piece 4: What is the mystery that needs to be solved?
    • Piece 5: What are the clues and how did they help get the mystery solved?
    • Piece 6: What happens at the beginning of this story?
    • Piece 7: What are the middle events?
    • Piece 8: How does the story end? Who solves the mystery and how? What were the suspect’s motives?

    This year my students are quite proficient at keyboarding skills to we published the report using Word. Students were also able to practice inserting clip art and changing margins, fonts, and colors.


    After the report is printed, students use a ruler, pencil, and scissors to trim it into eight neat rectangles that will fit into their eight puzzle pieces to be used on the back of the project.


    The Puzzle



    To begin, I ask four students who are nearly finished with their written report to join me on the tile portion of our classroom floor. Working with partners, I show each pair how to measure and divide their pieces of tagboard into eight equal rectangles that measure 6”x 9.”

    Next, I demonstrate how they can trace half-circles using the top or bottom of a plastic cup to create the “innies and outies” that are characteristic of a jigsaw puzzle. After all the lines are drawn, students trace over them in marker. By teaching four students how to create the puzzle in a step-by-step fashion, I now have trained  “coaches” who can help their classmates when they are ready to turn their tagboard into a puzzle.



    Students use crayons or colored pencils to illustrate a scene from their book that includes the following elements:

    • main setting
    • main characters and suspects
    • at least two clues
    • the mystery (usually the object/person that is missing) 
    • red herrings that threw the reader or the detective off track

    Students are told to fill the poster completely with their picture, leaving no white space. When the poster is finished, I take a photo of it and print it as a color, full-sized page.


    Finishing Up

    When the front of the poster is finished, students glue their report that they have cut into eight pieces on the back.



    Next, it is time for students to cut their report apart into puzzle pieces. The first few students always seem apprehensive to cut through the words in their report, but after I tell them it’s okay because people will want to put their puzzle together just to read the report, they are  more than eager to cut their report apart.


    Students glue the printed photo of their puzzle on the front of the manila envelope and all puzzle pieces go inside.


    Puzzle Party

    To celebrate everyone finishing their puzzles, we have a “puzzle party.” At this celebration, students move around the room putting together each other’s puzzles and leaving compliments on a feedback sheet. 


    The giant jigsaw puzzle is a fun project that incorporates many different skills and elements — a new fashioned book report if you will. You can see in the photos my students love helping each other which makes these large posters very manageable for small hands.

    I'd love to hear of any different types of book projects you do for a genre study. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.




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Susan Cheyney