The Jigsaw is one of my favorite activities to use for reading comprehension with English language learners. It allows them to organize information they have read in a visual way, thereby helping them process the material more deeply. (The picture above is a link to a generic graphic organizer for a jigsaw activity.)
Here's an example of how you might direct groupwork using this handout:
Sample topic: American Revolutionary War
1. Divide students into 3 groups of 3-5 (depending on class size). Each group should have the same number if possible. Give these groups a number.
2. Determine a subtopic to the main topic for the day, and assign to each group. For example, if you are discussing the American Revolutionary War, the subtopics could be: 1) Causes, 2) Major Events, 3) Results.
3. Students then discuss their assigned topic to determine 3 main ideas. Each group member should each record these on the front side of the handout.
4. Once students complete these steps, they will change groups entirely and form a new group with members from the other 3 groups. (If you number the groups, you can tell them that there should be one member from groups 1, 2, 3, and 4) in each new group.
5. In Group #2, students will begin to put together the big picture of the topic. Each member reports their findings from Group #1 and students in Group #2 take notes on the second part of the graphic organizer. Students take turns reporting until they are done.
I love jigsaw activities because they are student-centered and combine a variety of speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. They also help students identify the most important information and condense it into language they understand. Make sure to visit http://www.jigsaw.org for more information on jigsaw activities.