Hook Your Students! The Consensus Placemat

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The consensus placemat is a great way to focus students' attention and activate prior knowledge! This cooperative learning activity is one of my favorite no-prep, anticipatory sets. Read on to see how the consensus placemat works, view examples, and grab a free printable template!

Welcome to post #2 in the series: Hook Your Students! How to capture (and keep!) their attention. To read post #1 about Anticipation-Reaction Guides, click here.

This week I will share how I use the Consensus Placemat to motivate and prepare my students for learning. The Consensus Placemat is a cooperative learning tool designed to increase student engagement and individual accountability.

To complete the placemat, the teacher poses a question about an important idea, concept, or skill. Each student then takes time to think independently about the question and write their response in their own space on the edge of the placemat.

When every member of the group is finished writing, the team shares ideas. I like to use Round Robin to be sure that each student has an opportunity to share their ideas and hear the reasoning of their peers.

Once every idea has been shared, the team works together to create one answer with which every member agrees. The team then writes this consensus statement or summary in the center of the placemat.

Consensus Placemat - How I use it to motivate and prepare my students for learning

Why Use a Consensus Placemat?The consensus placemat is an easy, low-prep tool that offers many benefits.
  • It is a great way to activate students' prior knowledge and to see what students already know. 
  • It encourages participation from every student. Students who may be reluctant to raise their hand or share ideas are able to actively contribute to the discussion in a relaxed setting. Because each member must construct their own response first, it increases equitable participation and individual student accountability.  
  • Students must think critically to support their ideas and evaluate the reasoning of others. 
I typically use the consensus placemat as an opening hook to build student interest and readiness. Students are excited to learn from their peers and they are eager to verify their individual ideas and team summary. I have also used it as a closing exercise to reinforce key concepts and check for understanding.

Are you ready to give it a go? Here is a blank template and some prompts to get you started:

  • Is a rectangle a square? How do you know?
  • What are the steps of the water cycle? Show what you know using words or pictures.
  • What is alliteration? Provide an example.
  • Describe our rules for recess.
  • Are all odd numbers prime? Explain how you know.

I hope this tool is of value to you and your students. What questions do you have? How do you use the consensus placemat with your class? Let me know; I'd love to learn with you!

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  1. I LOVE the idea of a Consensus Placemat! I'm going to make a template for my University English class to use to debate issues. Thank you!


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