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Spotlight on Strategies:Placemat

Big idea

When students have adequate thinking time, the quality of their responses improves. The Placemat strategy is designed to allow each student time to think. It also provides a venue for them to share their perspectives while encouraging them to listen to and appreciate the thoughts and ideas of other team members. The outcome of student participation in this strategy is a summary response that is better than what an individual student could produce alone. Bennett, B. & Rolheiser, C. (2001). Beyond Monet: The artful science of instructional integration. Toronto, Ontario: Bookation.

Overview of strategy

  • Ages:Primary & Secondary
  • Media type used:Video, Image, Audio & Text
  • Preparation time:Low
  • Download strategy PDF


media (reading passage, video, and/or image) or artefacts/objects, large piece of paper to use as the Placemat, pen or pencil

  1. Select media that links to your objectives.
  2. Review the media and decide what ideas are most important. Develop a related question or prompt to guide student reflection.
  3. Arrange students into groups. (Groups of four work well.)
  4. Provide each group with a piece of chart paper, and make sure each student has a pen or pencil.
  5. Set up the Placemat organiser by asking students to divide the paper into parts based on the number of members in the group, leaving a central square or circle. Also, have each student select a different portion of the organiser as their work area.
  6. Share the media with students, along with the question or prompt to guide their thinking.
  7. Ask the students to reflect on the media by writing their ideas in their work area.
  8. When students have recorded their own ideas, ask them to share their thoughts as a group and then scribe the common ideas they all share in the centre area of the organiser.
Sum it up

The Placemat strategy helps students learn how to build on the ideas of others and combine common thoughts into a summarised statement. When students have the opportunity to discuss and reflect on a topic, learning is retained and students are actively engaged in the thinking process.

More ideas

Use this strategy as a starting point for a writing piece, a research opportunity, or a culminating project. When students generate their own ideas and thoughts, they are more engaged and have more ownership in the final piece of work.

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