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Puzzle Race Builds Cooperative-Group Skills



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
    --Visual Arts


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Use this activity just for fun or to assess students' cooperative-work skills. It makes a nice activity for use at holiday parties, as a time-filler, or as a cooperative-work assessment. Links to cooperative group assessment rubrics included.



  • use visual skills as they complete jigsaw puzzles.
  • work cooperatively to complete a puzzle.


puzzle, cooperation, cooperative group, race, filler, holiday

Materials Needed

  • large, colorful gift bags (from the "dollar store"); cut into jigsaw-puzzle pieces

Lesson Plan

This activity is good for use as a whole-class reward or a quick activity when you have time to spare. It is a good activity for building cooperative-working and visual skills too. You could use this activity and a "cooperation rubric" (samples offered) as an assessment tool for "grading" students cooperative work aptitude.

Before the Lesson
Purchase large, colorful gift bags. These can often be found at discount prices at "dollar stores" and big-box department stores such as WalMart. Purchase enough gift bags to have one for every two to five students. Cut from the bags the large, flat image areas (often the same image appears on both sides of the bag, so you can get two images from each bag) and then cut those images into jigsaw-puzzle pieces appropriate for the age of your students. For older students, make the activity more challenging by using bags with more abstract or complicated images.

Explain the Race
The idea behind the puzzle race is simple. Arrange students into pairs or small groups; two or three students might make an ideal group size, but four or five would be workable and would challenge students in the group to be sure they involve all members as they work cooperatively.

Provide a puzzle for each group to work. Then give the "start" signal. Which group will be the first to complete their puzzle?

Additional Notes

  • You might purchase multiple bags of the same design so that each pair or small group of students will be working with the same puzzle.
  • If you use different puzzles for each group, the case can be made that this might not a fair head-to-head race. But the activity can still be used as an assessment of cooperative skills.
  • Using multiple puzzle designs also enables you to use this activity over and over as a filler activity so long as students work different puzzles each time.
  • Before cutting the gift bag's image into jigsaw-puzzle pieces, stack the images; then cut through them all at the same time. In that way, all students are working with the same number of same-shaped puzzle pieces.
  • You might use themed images. For example, a bag with a variety of rain forest animals on it might be a fitting way to end a unit on animals of the rain forest. A bag with a generic Christmas/December holiday image on it might make a good puzzle-race puzzle to use as a holiday party activity.


If you use this activity as a race, the first team to complete their puzzle is the winner.

If you use this activity to assess students' cooperative-working skills you might share your assessment rubric in advance so students know how they will be assessed. You might use one of the rubrics below; or you might adapt these to create your own.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-4.2 Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
NA-VA.K-4.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-VA.5-8.2 Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas

NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills

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