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How to Use Consensus Placemat

Do you find it tricky to come up with ideas to get your students speaking? Conversation classes are my favourite kind, so I want to share an idea that I came across this past week when looking up teaching ideas on Pinterest.

Do you know what a consensus placemat is?  Today’s short, but sweet post will be on exactly that!  (By the way, I wrote a whole post on How To Get Your Class To Speak Up, so you can check out a few other ideas if you’d like!


What is A Consensus Placemat? 

So, a “consensus placement” is exactly what it sounds like – a “placemat” worksheet you use with a group of four students. Except, instead of having a placemat each like at a dinner table, there is one placemat for the group.  Actually, I first heard about this activity over at Creative Classroom’s blog, but apparently it’s quite a popular activity for many subjects, not just English.

All you do is have groups of 4 gather around one “placemat” each.  There is room (and time) for each student to brainstorm his or her own ideas and arguments. Then, students present their arguments to their teammates  and come to a consensus.


How To Use Consensus Placemats For Speaking Classes

1.  Set a time limit for brainstorming –  Be sure that students have sufficient time to brainstorm their own ideas before sharing with the team.

2.   Next, give each student a chance to speak. Students should present the ideas they have written down, explaining their point of view.

3.  Then, have students discuss their different points of view. Remind students to be respectful of the other person’s point of view, listen to their reasons, and then explain their counterargument.

4. Students should come to a consensus  – Together, students need to reach an agreement and statement of the way they will approach the issue.  For example, if the question is  Should the legal age to drive a vehicle in Canada/ the US be raised to 18?, students should come up with a plan their city/country’s government should follow.  For an easier version, have students come up with a summary of arguments, rather than reach an agreement.

5. Challenge  – For advanced classes,  assign two of the students to one “side” of a debate today, or one role in a situation, and have them be in  “roleplay” mode. As a result, they should do their best to stick to their assigned “side” of the argument and convince their opponents that their argument is valid.


Want the lesson plan and free printable consensus placemat I made?  Head over to the April 2017 section of my printables library.  You have access right? If not, click the button below!

Free Printables Library

Tips for Consensus Placemats With ESL Students


1.  Encourage the use of transition words and connectors.  Students should practice using a variety of connectors when making their arguments.  Actually, a short summary of their points can also be used as a writing assignment using connectors.

2.  Have students make a vocabulary list as they work through their consensus placement.  Compile everyone’s lists and start the next class by reviewing vocabulary that students found difficult.

3. Follow-up activity:   Have students re-write the consensus summary in their own words, practicing the new vocabulary and remembering to edit for grammar, use connectors/transition words, and make clear, concise sentences.


Remember, I have a whole post about speaking activities in the ESL classroom (5 Ways to Get Your Students to Speak Up), so you can check out more ideas there.

Well, that’s my short and sweet Saturday post!  I hope it’s given a few of you a new idea for your classes this week.  Also, don’t forget to sign up for my printables library to get more English teaching, motivational and organizational resources!


Happy Teaching!




P.S. Photo fans, the main image for today’s post is one I took on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, in 2008.

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