Before we began the activity, we talked as a class about what behaviours we wanted to follow as we worked in groups. Students offered ideas, and they were recorded on chart paper.
From their criteria, I created a self-assessment checklist for the students to use as a reflection after the activity.
Once we had established the guidelines, we explained the place mat activity. Here's how it works:
- Each table received a piece of chart paper with our project question in the middle. In this case, the question was "How would you provide for people in a community."
- Each group separated the chart paper into equal sections, one for every member of the group, then we asked the students to write their names in their sections.
- Students had 2 minutes of silent writing time to think on their own and write their ideas in their section of the place mat.
- After the 2 minutes were up, the students took turns explaining what they wrote down to the other members of their group. Each student got 1 minute to explain while the other students listened silently.
- After every student in the group shared his or her ideas, then the other students could ask questions. We gave the groups 5 more minutes for questions and discussion, encouraging them to write more if they had more ideas.
- We then asked each group to choose 3 or 4 ideas to share out to the whole class. As the groups were sharing out, each student was encouraged to continue writing down ideas they liked on their own place mat.
- After the groups each shared out, the students had a chance to walk from table to table to see and read the other groups' place mats.
I used this technique in a Middle School Social Studies class, but I really believe it could be differentiated for any grade level in any subject area.
Have you used this brainstorming technique (or something like it) before? Let me know what worked/didn't work for you in the comments below.