Craft supplies such as markers, stickers, glitter, etc
Pre-fabricated blank puzzle kit (optional)
In advance, create your own jigsaw puzzle by drawing random, interconnecting pieces on a large sheet of construction paper to provide one piece for each member of your group.
Use scissors to cut the individual pieces from the paper.
Gather your group and randomly distribute one piece to each person.
Announce that the puzzle pieces are all unique, just like every person in your group.
Invite each person to use the markers and assorted craft materials to decorate their puzzle piece in a way that represents their personality (or some other attribute.)
Allow 10 to 15 minutes for your group to create their artwork.
When ready, invite group members to share the meaning of their puzzle piece artwork with others in a paired, small or large group conversations.
How To Play Narrative
This activity is a fun and creative strategy to remind your group that everyone is unique, wonderful, and talented in their own way. It’s an awesome opportunity to invite your group to express themselves and reflect on their qualities.
The overall message to your group is to create a puzzle that’s inclusive and representative of their individuality and the power of creating a completed puzzle together as a team.
To start, you’ll need to create one large, giant and blank jigsaw puzzle. It is possible to download a pre-fabricated jigsaw puzzle (see Leadership Tips tab) or purchase commercial jigsaw puzzles with a varying number of blank pieces, but you can easily create your own.
Take a large sheet of cardboard or construction paper and randomly draw a series of interconnected pieces so that there is one piece for every person in your group. It’s not too hard, but the key is to make sure that every puzzle piece looks unique.
Once you’re happy with the design, use scissors to carefully cut out the individual pieces.
Here’s an example of a puzzle I created for a group of 12 people:
When ready, gather your group and randomly distribute one puzzle piece to each person.
Framing your experience comes next and can make all the difference to how powerful it may be for your group.
Announce that each and every puzzle piece is unique, just like every person in your group. This should be a familiar concept, but sometimes the message gets lost, so making it tangible can help it sink in.
Explain that you would like each person to use any or all of the markers and craft materials as they choose to decorate their specific puzzle piece so that it represents something about them as an individual.
For example, ask them to decorate the puzzle piece so that it represents:
One or more of their strengths
Once you have dispensed with the obligatory questions (note, no one can get this wrong,) direct your group to the craft materials and allow up to 15 minutes to decorate their puzzle pieces.
When ready, it will be time to lead one or two meaningful events.
The first will be to invite each person to share with others – perhaps in pairs, small groups or to the whole group – to describe why they decorated their puzzle the way they did. Be sure to listen for how the decorations relate to the individual, rather than just describe the particular decorations they used. For example, if they used a red marker, ask them if this choice of colour was important to them and why.
Your second task could be to reconnect all of the puzzle pieces together. The level of challenge will largely be a function of how many pieces there are and how unique each piece is. Once assembled, take a photograph or adhere all of the pieces to a larger sheet to display on the wall.
Inviting your group to reflect on the end result is important. Helping them to understand that while each person is wholly unique, everyone is still connected to the group, to some (puzzle pieces) more than others.
Practical Leadership Tips
You can access and download a bunch of free pre-fabricated jigsaw puzzles from here and here.
If your group is very large (25+ people) you may choose to split into smaller groups, supplying one whole puzzle to each group.
Given the random nature of the puzzle pieces (especially if you create your own,) you may find it useful to paste a large image on the back of the blank jigsaw (before you cut it) to assist your group when it comes time to assemble it again, ie the picture on the back will guide the group to success.
Remind your group that there are no rules for decorating their puzzle piece – allow them to express themselves freely, without judgement.
Some members of your group may need help thinking of attributes that represent who they are. In this case, pose a few questions to prompt their thinking such as How would your friends describe you? or What is something you love to do or are good at?
Encourage communication with others throughout the exercise.
Remind participants that they are accepted and appreciated exactly for who they are and that even the small ways that make them unique, matter. Let them know that their differences allow them to bring more to the table and make an even bigger difference, together.
Keep in mind that although this activity will help your group connect and support each other, it may also bring up a sense of weakness or unworthiness. It’s important to address both sides of the coin and to acknowledge that where one has a weakness, the other is strong, and vice versa.
If you’re looking for commercially produced blank jigsaw puzzle kits, check out what’s available at the Training Wheels online store. As a novel twist, check out the Puzzle People.
You could integrate Uniquities as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As an exercise that invites people to self-reflect, Uniquities is ideal for building mindfulness about one’s own abilities and characteristics. If possible, consider presenting a specific mindfulness exercise – such as Inner World Tour – before you create the puzzle pieces to give each person ample opportunity to reflect on their unique characteristics.
As described in the Variations tab, it is possible to frame this activity to help your group develop a set of meaningful norms to develop an awareness of positive and supportive behaviours. While there is no shortage of characteristics that could be identified as part of this task, most groups will gravitate to the stock-standard responses such as trust, cooperation and respect. To this end, consider leading a conversation to develop a long list of positive attributes of successful groups before presenting Uniquities. Then ask each person to (a) select the one attribute they think is the most important, or (b) allocate one attribute to each person to represent the focus of their puzzle piece decoration.
Group Values: Frame this exercise as an opportunity for your group to create a set of group norms or values, ie each person decorates one puzzle piece to represent an important element of how they want the group to behave.
Poster Cause: Create a poster comprising a bunch of puzzle pieces, each one representing an attribute or message bringing awareness to an important cause, such as equity, inclusion or anti-discrimination.
Through My Eyes: Similar to as described, frame the activity as an opportunity for each person to create a unique jigsaw puzzle piece on behalf of another member of the group. I would recommend that you allocate the names of each group member randomly to be sure everyone is accounted for in the puzzle. Challenge your group when all of the pieces have been created to identify who is represented in each piece.
Take a look at Snowflake to enjoy another simple, yet powerful exercise that reinforces the notion that every person is unique, yet a part of the whole.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
The creative element of this activity can be presented online, but admittedly, assembling the final puzzle product will not be possible. To this end, send out an email in advance to let your group know what materials they will need for your session. Also, distribute a PDF featuring a unique puzzle piece (downloaded online or something you created yourself) for each person which they can print and then decorate at home.
Use the webcam or chatroom facilities to invite sharing when your group is ready.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Our next exercise will invite you to reflect on what makes you who you are. It’s easy to overlook how exceptional each one of us is, but we all have many skills, talents, and traits that make us special…
Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, everyone fits in here. No matter how different or similar we are, we each have an important role to play, and you are all valuable in your own unique ways…
Most of the time, we don’t stop to appreciate who we are including our strengths and weakness. This powerful theme will take centre stage in this next activity…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this creative self-awareness activity:
Look at the other jigsaw puzzle pieces. Which are similar to yours? Which are different?
What skills, personality, or talents did you choose to represent yourself in your puzzle piece? Why?
What colours did you choose? Why?
What did you like most about this activity?
How did you feel before and after the activity?
What do you think is the purpose of this activity? Explain.
What might this activity teach us about how we can work together more successfully?
The inspiration for Uniquities was sourced from Lisa Hughes and the Everyone Fits in Here DIY Puzzle Activity on the S&S Blog.