- A little history
It all started "for the purpose of teaching geography". In 1767, John Spilsbury, a teacher in England, created the first jigsaw puzzle, adhering his maps to flat hardwood, he used a fine saw to cut along the borders of the European countries, and the jigsaw puzzle was born. Hand-painted and made of wood, the puzzle was a map of England and Wales, with each county making up a separate piece.
- The science : learning by doing : improve learning in the brain
Hands-on learning is an educational method that directly involves the learner, by actively encouraging them to do something in order to learn about it. In short, it is 'learning by doing'.
There is evidence that our ability to use our hands affects the structure and functioning of the brain.
Indeed, when you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain. "The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information”.
So using puzzles as a way to learn should improve memory.
Moreover, doing a puzzle involves the fine-motor skills that are controlled by the part of the brain called the cerebellum. Researchers found that the cerebellum is also part of “cognitive” networks with the prefrontal cortex.
Hence, fine motor movement could help children to learn by stimulating their cerebellum, and then remodeling neural connections with prefrontal regions in their brain and promoting neural networks involved in learning.
- A way of learning without any pressure:
The child learns by doing puzzles on his own. This self-learning process allows the release of any pressure of an interaction between the teacher and the child.
Furthermore, the accomplishment of achieving a goal brings so much satisfaction to a child. Overcoming the challenges involved in solving a puzzle really gives them a sense of achievement and pride within themselves. It provides a boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem. (Scub, when he did one of his first puzzle games, said “hum impressive! Yes i’m very smart!”)
This could also be a way to learn for non verbal children who struggle to communicate.
- How to use the puzzles: FOLLOW THE MOVEMENT OF THE CHILD AND HIS INTEREST
You could use this concept to learn everything from the national curriculum; it could be learning math with addition, fraction, or biology with food chain...
The key is to follow the movement of the child and involve his interests in it:
-Follow the movement of the child: observe how the child moves
Depending on how the child moves you could put the puzzle pieces along a trail in a treasure type of games, or in one spot, around the arena or on a table.
-Follow the interest of the child: what are the child’s interests?
Use the interest of the child to make the puzzle, it could be a cartoon character that he likes, a picture of a train,...anything related to his interests...
The ultimate goal of each puzzle is to find the puzzle pieces and put them in the right order.
By putting the puzzle pieces in the right order the child find out and learn about a new concept.
The puzzle way of learning is also a good way to test children without putting pressure on them. Make it in a way that the child has to choose the right puzzle piece to get the puzzle right.
You could for example learn how to read:
E.g. learning prepositions with “Sarah and Duck”, children’s book series that a little autistic girl really liked:
She was motivated to do the puzzle because she had to make a picture she liked. By building the picture she was also making a sentence which included a preposition. (e.g. “Sarah is in the forest”). She could learn in this way about prepositions by doing the puzzle.
And then, in the “confirm it” part, the child could choose the right puzzle piece between two possible puzzle pieces. By choosing the right puzzle piece to put into the puzzle, he would confirm that he now understands the new concept.
E.g. confirming the understanding of the preposition “in” in the sentence “Sarah & Duck are in the living room”
She had to make a choice between two puzzle pieces representing the same part of the picture but with a different preposition written on it, one was the right puzzle piece with the right preposition (“in”), the other one was the wrong puzzle piece with a wrong preposition (“on”).
She could then put the right puzzle piece into the right puzzle representing the picture matching to the sentence and put the “wrong puzzle piece” into another puzzle indicated by a label “A wrong puzzle piece”.
By choosing the correct preposition by putting the right puzzle piece into the puzzle, she was thus able to confirm that she knew how to get the correct sentence.
You could also learn about math:
E.g. learning addition with "mr men and little miss"
Or learn about biology:
E.g. learning about food chain
Learn the whole curriculum this way following the movement and the interests of the child, be creative!