Using Tarsia Puzzles in Middle School Science

tarsia puzzles for middle school students


What are tarsia puzzles

Tarsia puzzles are a versatile and engaging tool for teaching science to middle school students. They provide a hands-on approach to learning and help students understand complex concepts in a fun and interactive way. In this blog post, we will explore the use of tarsia puzzles in 7th grade science classes and the benefits they offer.

Tarsia puzzles are interactive puzzles that consist of a number of jigsaw pieces that fit together to form a larger image or concept map. They are often used in mathematics and science classes to help students understand complex topics. In science classes, I use tarsia puzzles to help students practice vocabulary.

Benefits of Using Tarsia Puzzles in Science Classes

  1. Hands-on learning

One of the major benefits of tarsia puzzles is that they offer a hands-on approach to learning. This is particularly important in science, where students need to understand complex concepts that are often difficult to grasp through reading and lecture alone. With tarsia puzzles, students are able to physically manipulate the pieces and see how they fit together, helping to solidify their understanding of the concepts being taught.

  1. Engagement

Tarsia puzzles are a highly engaging activity that students enjoy participating in. They provide a break from traditional lectures and allow students to work together in small groups, encouraging collaboration and communication skills. The puzzle aspect of tarsia also appeals to students’ sense of competition and can motivate them to learn more about the topic being taught.

  1. Reinforcement of key concepts

Tarsia puzzles are an excellent tool for reinforcing key concepts in science. By using the puzzles, students are able to see the connections between different concepts and understand how they all fit together. This can help them remember important information and apply it to future topics of study.

  1. Differentiated instruction

Tarsia puzzles can be adapted to meet the needs of different students, making them an effective tool for differentiated instruction. For example, more challenging puzzles can be used for advanced students, while simpler puzzles can be used for students who need more support.  This allows teachers to meet the needs of all students in the class, regardless of their ability level.

One way to differentiate tarsia puzzles is to add dead-end questions to make the puzzle more challenging. I add a few vocabulary terms on the the edges of the puzzles but don’t include the answers. You can also purposefully make a mistake in your puzzle – match the wrong term to the definition, perhaps – and tell students they have to find the mistake. Make it even more challenging by making 2 or 3 mistakes.  A third way to differentiate tarsia puzzles is to use a “?” in one location and ask students to identify the missing term. They will have to complete the puzzle in order to figure out what’s missing.

To make puzzles more accessible for students who need more support, give them one, or more, piece already in place.

Tips and tricks to using Tarsia puzzles in middle school science

Fair warning – these puzzles are not easy for students at first! I tried an 11 question and answer hexagon the first time my students saw a tarsia puzzle and it was very challenging. The second time they see a puzzle is a bit easier for them, and they are champs by the third time.

To ease initial frustration the first time you ask your students to try a tarsia puzzle:

  • Use as few words as possible in your puzzle. Short questions and single word answers will make it more approachable.
  • Use content your students are close to mastering, or at least are very familiar with. This is not a good puzzle for the first time your sixth graders have heard of symbiosis.

How to create your own Tarsia puzzles

Tarsiamaker is a free website that allows you to make unlimited tarsia puzzles in 4 different shapes – a small triangle with 9 questions and answers, a small hexagon with 11 questions and answers, a large triangle with 18 questions and answers, and a large hexagon with 30 questions and answers. The benefits of using this website is that you can quickly generate a puzzle during your lunch break and then print and use it your classroom next period. The drawback is that the shape options are limited.

The tarsia puzzles in the JustAddH2OSchool store all include a digital version. To create a digital version of a tarsia puzzle, you need to save each puzzle piece as a separate image and then add them to a Google Slide. Rotate a few to make it more interesting, then share with your students. You can also add a template image as the background to help students locate where to put each piece.


Published by JustAddH2OTeacher

Science teacherpreneur

One thought on “Using Tarsia Puzzles in Middle School Science

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: