Best Practices: The “Placemat Consensus” Technique Improved, Using Technology

One of the best practices a teacher can use in the classroom is grouping students into small (3 – 5 student) groups, who then work together to complete a task. Each student spends a few minutes brainstorming, and writing their own statements about a topic, in their own space. Then, a group leader writes the consensus statements (the things students agree is true) in the center. This practice is called “Placemat Consensus.” A conventional, done-on-chart-paper, model is this:


From NSTA’s “Strategies to Increase Active Discussion and Thinking for All Students.”


From “Placemat Math.”

placemat 1

From “Tried and True Teaching Tools.”

These are great tools for reporting agreement or consensus between group members. But what if you don’t have chart paper? Or what if you want to do this, using technology? In my district, we have Chromebooks. So, I’m looking to do this using Google.

The first step for the teacher is to create a template, or a model for the Placemat Consensus. Here’s the link to the one I would use (It’s simply a table, inserted into a Google Doc). Have your group leader of your small student groups make a copy (Go to File -> Make a Copy -> and then replace “Copy of” with their group name). Here is what my Google Doc looks like:

And here are my directions for students/small groups


1.)    Divide the students into groups (3 – 5 students).  Each student should write their name on one section of the placemat table in the Google Doc.

2.)    A topic should be presented (either provided by the teacher, brainstormed by the students, etc., depending on lesson)

3.)    Give the students two minutes (time can be varied if necessary) to write down all their thoughts on their portion of the Google Doc.  This should be done in total silence.

4.)    When this is done, the groups should then vote on the ideas they all agree on highlighting the ones they agree with, and leaving the ones they don’t agree with alone.

5.)    Ideas the group agrees on (highlighted) should be listed in the center of the table, by the group leader.

6.)    As a class, discuss ideas that made it into the center of the table (if applicable).

The best things about this activity is that it fosters collaboration in your class, and provides clear evidence of learning. I’d love to hear, are there other technology resources for creating Placemat Consensus Charts?

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