Place Mats as a Diagnostic Tool

Place mats are a quick and easy tool to get small groups of students brainstorming about a topic, and they are super easy to produce. All you need is a large sheet of paper and a marker.

1. On a large sheet of paper, draw a circle in the centre. This will be the area where students write down commonalities or a summary of what they discussed. 
2. Draw spokes running from the edge of the circle to the edge of the page, and use these spokes to divide the page into equal sections. In this example, the spokes divide the page into four sections, so students will need to be in groups of four:

How to Use Place Mats:

This method works best in small groups of 3-4. After giving your students a prompt or guiding question, have them brainstorm a list of words, phrases, or pictures that relate to your prompt. Each student is given their own section on the place mat. Have them record their name somewhere on the page for accountability. 

Tell the students to put their writing utensils down on their desk as a signal to other group members that they are ready to begin discussion. When every student has placed their pen or pencil down on their desk, then it is time for the group to share their answers with each other. A designated scribe will then record a summary of their main discussion points into the box in the middle of the page. Groups can be asked to share their answers at the end, or the teacher can collect the place mats to use as a formative assessment. 

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