Candy Inventions: A Collaborative Jigsaw Activity That Involves All Learners


Today’s elementary school classrooms are composed of learners with a wide range of reading and writing skills. As teachers, we face the challenges of engaging all our students in the learning process and of designing inclusive lessons that meet their needs in a supportive, empathetic and nurturing manner.

This lesson focuses upon a fun “jigsaw” activity designed for primary grade students. It draws upon their creativity, extends their imaginations, and has proven to work well in involving English language learners in the mainstream classroom. Jigsaw is a cooperative learning technique that promotes student collaboration, enhances language acquisition, involves language learners in the completion of learning tasks, and provides a vehicle for creating a common focus.

The jigsaw technique was first introduced by Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist, in 1971. Along with his graduate students at the University of Texas and the University of California, he developed the jigsaw classroom as a situation of mutual interdependence. Each student played a unique role in the completion of a group assignment and then had an opportunity to learn from his/her peers. Over the years, teachers have developed many variations to the traditional jigsaw structure and modified it to suit their own classroom programming, size of groups, and range of topics. A personal variation that I have developed for the Candy Inventions activity involves children actually creating a jigsaw puzzle. While enabling each student in the group to specialize in one aspect of the puzzle, all group members must work together to fit the pieces into a whole picture.

The lesson follows the reading of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The story revolves around a poor, young boy named Charlie Bucket who wins a tour through the most magnificent candy factory in the world—a factory that is owned by the eccentric Mr. Willy Wonka. This lesson can be completed over the course of a week, depending upon the reading and writing levels of the students in the class.


Students will:

  • extend understanding of the story by connecting the ideas in it to their own knowledge, experiences, and the world around them;
  • sort ideas and information for their writing in a variety of ways, with appropriate vocabulary and grammar;
  • present their jigsaw pieces using familiar, grade-appropriate vocabulary and required information;
  • express personal thoughts and feelings about simple media works and explain their responses;
  • explain the candy invention, its purpose, and targeted audience.
  • use simple and easy to understand words, i.e., instead of using words like “illustrate” and “diagrams,” use “draw” and “pictures”;
  • provide a visual word bank with corresponding pictures that illustrate words;
  • have bilingual buddies in each group so that students can translate for each other;
  • draw lines upon which students are to write and organize their answers;
  • provide students with opportunities to present their answers pictorially;
  • ask students to describe what they are doing. This will allow for further clarification of the activity if necessary and for students to demonstrate their understanding.
  • students are to bring in their favourite candies and write three words they have heard on candy commercials prior to this lesson
  • chart paper and markers for class discussion
  • pads of sticky-notes for each table in the classroom
  • golden tickets with Mr. Willie Wonka’s special message photocopied and taped under students’ chairs with masking tape prior to students entering the classroom
  • Oompa-Loompa song ready to play (
  • four large jigsaw pieces cut out of construction paper for each group
  • photocopied sheets for each jigsaw piece: candy invention, ingredients, instructions on how to make the candy, and implications of eating the candy
  • crayons and colouring pencils for each table (preferably one pack per student)

(To activate prior knowledge, build background understanding, and pre-teach specialized vocabulary)

  1. Once students are seated at the classroom mat with their favourite candies, initiate a discussion in which they are to use their senses to describe the candies.
  2. Have students identify colours and words on the wrappers including candy names and ingredients.
  3. Ask: Would you be more likely to want to eat a candy that is in a grey wrapper or a colourful wrapper Why? What do you specifically like about your favourite candy? How does it taste?
  4. Encourage English language learners to share words that describe the appearance and taste of their favourite candies in their native languages.
  5. Have students come up and write on chart paper words that they hear and colours they see on candy commercials on TV.
  6. Ask: What words on the commercials make you want to buy the candies? How do the colours in the commercials make you feel about the candies?
  1. Once students are seated at their tables in groups of four, play the Oopma Loompa song (this will create the atmosphere for the jigsaw activity and arouse children’s sense of curiosity). Pretend that Mr. Willie Wonka has left a special note on your desk that says:
    Dear (classroom teacher),

    I have heard that your students have taken a few adventures with Charlie and the other children through my chocolate factory. I am sure they have enjoyed hearing about some of my latest inventions. The Oompa Loompas have been busy putting the final touches to some of my secret recipes. The ingredients have to be measured, instructions have to be followed, and each candy has to be wrapped perfectly. Each group of Oompa Loompas have to work collaboratively, which is a big word for “together,” and make sure that they complete their share of the work. I better get back to the factory as you know how silly the Oompa Loompas can get when I leave them alone for a long time. Please ask your students to look under their chairs. I hope they will like the special gift that I have left just for them. Signed, Mr. Willie Wonka

  2. After students discover the golden tickets with their special message from Mr. Willie Wonka under their seats, you will undoubtedly find the most reluctant reader wanting to read what the special message says. The letter can be modified to suit the reading levels of the students in the class.
    Congratulations! You are a Golden Ticket Winner!

    Greetings my dear friend! You are a lucky finder of this golden ticket. I shake you warmly by the hand and send you a hug filled with lots of chocolate sweetness. Tremendous things are in store for you! As you already know, I love adventures filled with laughter, songs and a sense of wonder. Now that you have finished listening to the story about my famous chocolate factory, I invite you to be my guest for a whole afternoon to celebrate in a hot-chocolate party with scrumptious melting marshmallows…yummy! You will participate in a viewing of my movie where you will see the magic of my Chocolate Factory come to life! Other children who are lucky enough to find my golden tickets will join you in the celebration. You can bring a small wrapped treat to the party if you wish. I have heard great things about you and know that you are an intelligent and creative person. I need your assistance in coming up with a new candy invention that the world has never seen before. The candy invention can sound as absurd as you like! Remember, anything is possible! You need to provide me with specific information and follow the steps that I have written below: Tell me the name of your candy invention and draw a detailed picture of it.

    Tell me what ingredients you need to make the candy, how much of each ingredient you need, and the purpose of each ingredient.

    Tell me how to make the candy with step-by-step instructions.

    Explain what the candy does when you eat it and why it is unique.

    Please make sure that the candy has some chocolate in it. You know how my Oompa-Loompas like their cacao beans!

    I have left some puzzle pieces in ____________’s (teacher’s name) desk . In groups of four members, you will need to put the puzzle pieces together and make sure that the writing on each of the pieces is completed. It is important that you cooperate in a respectful manner as you complete this task and listen to each other’s ideas. The thoughts of all the group members need to be included to make it a truly delightful invention. All children are responsible for completing their own jigsaw pieces in order to complete the whole puzzle.

    My Oompa-Loompas are busy putting some finishing touches to my latest ideas and are looking forward to seeing your completed jigsaw puzzles! Please try to complete them by _____________________ (date).

    I will visit your classroom on ___________ at __________. At that time, I will invite you to share your inventions with me. Please do not be late. I am looking forward to meeting you! Keep Smiling!

    Signed, Mr. Willy Wonka

  3. Ask students to follow along as you read the letter out aloud and point out various key words.
  4. Explain how the students will use a jigsaw activity to complete the candy invention task. Each jigsaw has four pieces and one student is responsible for one piece. The pieces are: 1) Name and illustration of their special candy invention 2) The ingredients of the candy 3) How the candy is to be made (step-by-step instructions) 4) What the magical candy does when you eat it
  5. Allow students to discover how the pieces fit together and then describe the expectations for each of the written tasks.
  6. Provide students with 15 minutes to come up with an invention, discuss each aspect of the jigsaw puzzle, and choose which piece they would like to work on. They are to write down key points from their discussion on sticky notes and use the notes for guidance as they complete their puzzle pieces.
  7. Encouraged English language learners and their bilingual buddies to use their native languages to assist each other while completing the tasks.
  8. Provide students with 30 minutes to work on a rough draft of their writing and to discuss final details before making neat copies.
  9. Once the neat copies are written, students are to paste them on the jigsaw pieces, connect them, and tape the completed puzzle.
  1. Provide students with time to discuss their completed jigsaw puzzle and prepare for their presentations.
  2. After the groups have presented, ask the students to discuss: How did you find working on this collaborative activity in your groups? Did you find this activity to be challenging? How would you sell your inventions to other children in the school?
  3. Have students share their responses with the whole class.

To extend the knowledge attained from the jigsaw activity, create a math probability centre with a variety of candy ingredients called “The Candy Workshop.” Invite students to create candies with different ingredient combinations. Provide small puzzle pieces cut out of construction paper at the centre upon which students can create their own personal jigsaw puzzles for their creative inventions.

A heartfelt thank you to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Vaheguru Ji for ongoing guidance and support.


Sukhdeep Kaur Chohan
Sukhdeep Kaur Chohan is a passionate elementary school teacher with the Peel District School Board in Ontario. She has taught in suburban outer city schools in London England and village schools in Punjab, India. Her research has been published in numerous national and international journals around the world and focuses upon enriching children’s learning at the elementary school level.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Mar/Apr 2013 issue.

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