Teaching Mineral and Rock Identification with a Jigsaw Activity

Activity designed by Terri Lynn Constantopoulos, Eastern New Mexico University. Starting Point page by John McDaris, SERC.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see https://serc.carleton.edu/teachearth/activity_review.html.

This page first made public: Dec 9, 2009

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


In this Jigsaw activity, groups of four students are tasked with identifying 20 different minerals (or rocks). Each student is responsible for becoming an "expert" on 5 of the samples. The students then take turns teaching the rest of the group how to identify those 5 minerals. Ultimately, all students are responsible for being able to identify all 20 minerals.

Learning Goals

  • Develop students' ability to identify 20 different mineral species with each student becoming an "expert" in identifying 5 of the 20.
  • Foster participation, motivation and enthusiasm on the part of students in the lab section.

Context for Use

This activity was designed for use in an introductory geology laboratory section with a 2-hour lab period. The session previous to this activity was used to introduce and practice testing for the physical properties that would be used to identify the minerals in question, leaving an entire session for identification.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity is fully detailed in Constantopoulos, 1994 . The only physical materials that are necessary are samples of 20 different minerals, enough for the number of groups in the lab section.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Randomly assign students to groups and then assign them to a particular "expert" groups.
  • Set definite time intervals for each portion of the activity. Utilize students who finish a portion early by having them help students who are lagging behind.

References and Resources

Teaching Methods module on using Jigsaw Activities in class.