The Placemat Strategy- connecting to the TD theme

Groupwork and collaboration are the need of the hour for the next generation. To be able to work in a team, express yourself clearly, and understand different perspectives- I consider these life skills. Life skills may seem basic, and I’ve heard people scoff at the need to teach life skills! However, I can see that the pandemic has severely affected my students and even my children. In many ways, they need to be sensitized to what real life is all about, such as being empathetic, a team player, a critical thinker, and a problem solver.

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One of these life skills that that school can easily teach is teamwork and building positive relationships. I thoroughly enjoy group activities to spark creative discussions and push social skills into overdrive.

The only way we learn is by doing. Therefore, students need to have plenty of opportunities to lead, follow, listen and speak.

I recently used the placemat strategy to engage learners in discussion on our transdisciplinary theme, ‘How we express ourselves’.

The background-

We wanted to dig deeper into the meaning of the word ‘expressions’. The students saw emojis and understood how they conveyed meaning. We used an emotion wheel to enact expressions of sorrow, joy, exhaustion, etc. They moved on to understand the various mediums of expression such as dance, painting, writing, art, and much more. They began to realize that expressing themselves is not necessarily constrained to using words or speech.

Using the strategy-

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This strategy is likened to a placemat on a dining table. Everyone is expected to arrange themselves on a table with the ‘placemat’ between them. They should share ideas on the topic candidly and respectfully.

1. Learners should do this activity in small groups of 4 to 5.

2. Give the students an A4 size sheet (light colour or white) where they can draw the placemat template with a ruler. I love checking in with my student’s skills with a ruler during random activities. Why not bring it in whenever you can in a classroom?! The facilitator can draw the template beforehand if the students are younger or if you’re in a time crunch.

5 students can also do this by amending the template.
Picture credit- Ms. Young’s Teaching Strategies

3. I asked my third graders to skip making a box for the group idea as I would eventually paste a heading on the placemat. I tweaked the template to suit my need for quick execution, as should you! Constantly tailor tools to serve you!

4. The main idea was to discuss the learner’s understanding of the TD theme and conceptual lens. The students needed to discuss their ideas, bounce off each other’s opinions, and write their views on their designated space on the placemat.

The takeaway-

  • Group activities are essential to build social skills and learn from peers.
  • The placemat strategy is a great way to get students to talk and record their reflections.

Give this strategy a try the next time you’re looking for a way to enhance the spirit of collaboration. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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