My biggest piece of advice for any teacher asking about group work: Accountability! Make sure in some way each and every student is being held accountable for the work he or she has been given. This way not just one-two students are doing the work, all voices are being heard, and no one is wasting time! (hopefully!!)
Using a placemat consensus can be a very easy way to do just that! Haven't heard of them? No biggie! They are very easy to use and to make. Picture this: A square or circle in the middle of a large piece of paper with lines coming out of the middle sectioning the paper into a certain number of sections (one for each student). So if you have groups of four, you'll want four lines to create those sections, and so on. Here are just some google images I found online of basic placemat consensuses.
Nothing to them right!? The power is what you DO with them. There are SO many ways to use a placemat consensus in all subject areas, their possibilities are truly endless! Here's how they work:
Using a Placemat Consensus
Placemat consensus's are used to help guide students to a common understanding. Formally, they are used by the teacher presenting a question and each child solving or writing their answer in their section of the placemat. Then together they compare and discuss each answer and formulate what they think would be the best answer taking someone from everyone's original answer.
Here are some other fun ways to use a placemat consensus: (freebie at the end!)
- Place a math word problem in the middle and have each student solve - compare and vote on the winning answer.
- Giving each student a section of a book/text to read, write a quick summary of their section and then together write an overall summary of the book/text.
- Place a story/short text in the middle along with questions at the bottom. Assign each student with a question, have them answer and then share.
- Place a dollar/coin amount in the middle and have the students use coins or draw coins to make different amounts of the same total - CHALLENGE - have one person go at a time and no one can repeat the answers before them!
- Write a number in the middle and have each person given an operation and create an equation where the number in the middle is the answer. (ex: 30 15+ 15, 10 x 3, 30/1, 50 - 20)
- Place a short text and give each person a part of speech to search for: have them record as many as they could find and then share out and discuss.
- **Pictured Below** Place a short text in the middle and give each student a specific concept to analyze and answer. Have multiple texts to allow the students to rotate throughout the lesson so each child gets to use each section of the placemat consensus.
If you have other ideas on how to use a placemat consensus, I'd love to hear all about it! I'm always looking for ways to continue to incorporate this amazing quality tool!
If you'd like to get started, you can download my differentiated nonfiction cards I use (pictured above) HERE!