October 29, 2020
Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - Solve the Puzzle of Virtual Teaching
By: Mallory Emerson, MA, LCCE, CD(PALS) | 0 Comments
Well, here we are at the end of October, 2020 and once again this month’s Brilliant Activity for Birth Educators activity acknowledges the fact that most of us are still teaching virtually and this will continue well into 2021. This month, frequent contributor Mallory Emerson shares an activity that may “puzzle” a few of you but is pretty easy to get up and running with only a small amount of effort. I hope you will give it a try. To find all the Brilliant Activity for Birth Educators posts I have shared click here. - Sharon Muza, Connecting the Dots Community Manager
This puzzle activity can be a simple icebreaker and an opportunity to build community, or can be used to deliver higher level content in a fun, interactive way. I have done it both ways with great success. The puzzle technology platform that I use is Jigsaw Explorer. It is free and takes just a few minutes to set up. With just a link, you can share the puzzle with class members and invite them to complete it as a group or on their own.
An image focused on the topic you are covering (i.e. anatomy, epidurals, nursing positions).
Link to your custom puzzle on the puzzle platform of your choice (I use Jigsaw Explorer).
Virtual teaching platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex or Google Meet.
How to set the activity up
Choose an image, keeping in mind what you want families to get out of this activity, the topic you’d like to cover, how it will translate as a puzzle, and the usage rights. In order to work with Jigsaw Explorer, your image needs to be at a URL. I loaded mine into Imgur (a free imaging hosting platform). Once you have your image, right click and select “Copy image address” in order to get a URL that ends in .jpg, .png or .gif.
On the Jigsaw Explorer website, select “Create A Custom Puzzle” on the bottom or right hand side of the page. At this page, you can enter the URL for your image and any other optional details. You can also select the starting number of pieces and background color for your puzzle as well.
When you submit this form, you’ll be provided with a link. This link is not for collaborative work! You can use this link if you want your families to work on the puzzle independently, without seeing what other families are doing.
If you would like to create a collaborative puzzle, where everyone is moving pieces around on one puzzle (like sitting around a table together!), you will go to your puzzle’s link. When you open the puzzle, you’ll see a pop up where you can modify the puzzle. Choose the sharing icon, which looks like two people, and then enter your name.
Now you will have a new link, which you can use to share the puzzle with families.
If you want multiple small groups to work on their own puzzles, you’ll repeat this process for as many images/groups/breakout rooms you have.
How to conduct the activity
A puzzle activity is a wonderful icebreaker to get small groups chatting with each other right away. As families enter your virtual classroom, send them off into breakout rooms in groups of 3 or 4 families. Before you send them off, let them know briefly what you’re up to - this is an opportunity to get to know a few classmates and work on something while they wait for class to get started. You can post the shared links to your puzzles in chat, in a shared document, or through email. Be sure to label each link with a group number and let families know to take note of which breakout room they are in (it will tell them on the breakout room pop-up invitation).
For a puzzle around 60 pieces, 8-10 minutes tends to be plenty of time. Depending on the size and detail of your puzzle, you may want to adjust the timing. You can peek in on each group’s progress by visiting the shared puzzles. You can also check in on how it’s going by popping into each breakout room and chatting with the families.
All the breakout rooms can work on the same image, or each room can have a different puzzle. Once they put together their image, they can prepare and share what they know about that topic or item, gather an interesting fact or answer a question you have given them. For example, you might give each group a puzzle depicting a different newborn cue or breast/chest-feeding position.
While families can work on the puzzle individually with the first link you created, I think there are many more benefits to working on a puzzle cooperatively.
Another alternative is to have a puzzle of the week, waiting for them as they join the meeting before class. Working on puzzles together builds community and creates connections. With this option, there is less need to pack your puzzle activity full of teaching content -- the puzzle can be a fun tangential image or graphic that is related to that week’s topic but not necessarily directly supporting your learning objectives. Take advantage of every chance to build community and get families into an interactive and fun mood at the beginning of class!
What families say
Almost everyone loves a good puzzle and doing one with other people increases the overall enjoyment. Families like the casual chatter that occurs in breakout rooms as they work cooperatively to finish the puzzle, discovering what the image is and learning more about the topic. They come back from their breakout rooms engaged and laughing, pleased at making connections with other expectant families. One aspect of Jigsaw Explorer that I appreciate is that the pieces “click” together in a very tactically satisfying way, even though it is not a physical puzzle. This just boosts the enjoyment level a little bit more.
Using puzzles as a learning tool for childbirth classes is easy and free for the educator and fun for the participants. Childbirth educators can easily set it up without much technical skill. The activity works as an icebreaker, or for introducing new content and offers lots of engagement for all involved.
To get a feel for the site, play some of the free puzzles on Jigsaw Explorer and check out this cute yawning baby puzzle I created for you.
About Mallory Emerson
Mallory Emerson is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and certified doula (PALS) in the Seattle area. She currently teaches Great Starts classes with Parent Trust for Washington Children and her own Powerful Birth class series online. Mallory is passionate about providing evidence-based information to new families so that they can confidently navigate the decisions of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Mallory also co-owns Creative & Confident - a consulting and educational company that levels up the perinatal virtual teaching game through workshops and teaching tools. You can learn more about Mallory on her website, MalloryEmerson.com.
TagsBrilliant Activities For Birth Educators Series: Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Ice-Breakers Virtual Childbirth Classes Puzzles