Placemat is a structured cooperative learning strategy that increases student engagement and accountability in the classroom. This strategy is intended to provide students with an opportunity to share their individual perspectives and thinking on paper before working collaboratively to build on one another’s  individual thinking to create an overall synthesized response. It is a flexible strategy that can be used as an opening activity to hook students, activate their prior knowledge and brainstorm ideas, or even as a closing activity to reinforce learning and check for understanding.


  1. Consider important content of your class (topic, text, other media) and develop a question or prompt related to that content to engage students in individual reflection and group consensus building.
  2. Place students in groups of up to 4 members and give each group either a large copy of the Placemat graphic organizer template or a large piece of paper on which they can draw the Placemat organizer. If drawing the organizer, students will divide the paper into equal parts based on the number of members in the group, and a center square or circle for the synthesis statement.
  3. Pose the question, statement, or topic for students to consider and give students time to write their thoughts, ideas, reactions, and/or reflections in their section of the placemat. Students should not engage in discussion during this phase of the process and should have time to think and work alone. Consider giving a specific amount of time for this.
  4. After all students have recorded their ideas and thoughts about the topic, invite them to read one another’s responses, engage in discussion to clarify ideas that were written, and reach consensus around a key set of ideas that will be written in the center of the Placemat.
  5. Each group’s key ideas are shared with the class and discussed further to compare and contrast group responses, extend ideas, or create a whole group synthesis.



  • How did your response change as a result of working with your small group?
  • How did your group determine the most important aspects to include in your synthesis statement?
  • If you were going to do this again, how would you help the group get started to be successful?
  • How did your peers help you clarify your understanding of _____?
  • When sharing out in small groups, establish expectations for how students will actively listen to their peers and ask probing questions. You may consider providing students with an option to pass, especially if they do not know each other well or it is their first attempt at a Placemat.
  • A variation of the Placemat is for students to rotate around to one another’s responses and respond in writing prior to discussion.
  • Rather than having one large graphic organizer template, students can cut out their section of the Placement to  write on, and then join with the other members of their group for discussion. You could also mix up groups in this way where students can take their section of the Placement and join with members from another group to continue sharing and discussing.
  • Consider pairing the Placemat strategy with a structured Academic Dialogue strategy such as Think-Pair-Share to have students sharing with peers outside of their group prior to developing the synthesis/group response.



Students use their notes and the reading materials to discuss why freedom of speech is so important.


Students work independently and then together to do a formal analysis of a work of art (i.e. sculpture, art, photograph, etc.).


Students do a Placemat activity at the end of a unit to share how they have been impacted by the particular NHES Standard (i.e. advocacy, decision-making, goal-setting, practicing health enhancing behaviors).


Students work first to solve problems with similar characteristics independently then discuss the different processes they used to solve the problem with peers.