Discussion Roundtable and Placemat

Graphic organizers and concept maps are an intermediate step to something else —discussion or writing

The difference between a ‘Placemat’ and a ‘Discussion Round Table’: Moving from Surface to deep learning

Students work in triads or groups of four

A ‘Discussion Roundtable’ promotes individual thinking and consolidation of new understandings, and enhances the initial understanding by strengthening it after listening to the understanding of others.

  • Students write their initial understanding in one of the sections of the organiser
  • When all students in the collaborative group have written their understanding, they LISTEN to the understanding of their group members and write their version of their understanding in the appropriate section of the organiser (this requires time for thinking and writing before another member shares their understanding)
  • When all group members have shared, and their understandings are captured and recorded by others in the group, each student creates a summary of the different understandings, and writes this in the centre of the organiser
  • To shift this ‘surface’ learning to deep learning, use the ‘Placemat’ organiser


The ‘Placemat’ strategy will be used as follows:

Students write their final summaries from the ‘Discussion Roundtable’, into one of the outer four sections of the ‘Placemat. They then follow the process below to establish a group common understanding of the question and ‘shift’ to a deeper understanding


This strategy will help students to:

  • brainstorm and generate ideas around an event or issue
  • encourage collaboration and team problem solving
  • increase accountability and involvement in own learning.


  1. Place students in groups of two, three or four and give each group a large piece of paper.
  2. The paper is then divided into sections based on the number of students in the group, with a square or circle drawn in the centre (see templates below).
  3. Pose a question, statement or dilemma for students to consider. For example: What increases your risk of contracting an STI/BBV?
  4. Each student writes their ideas or decisions in their section of the placemat. No discussion is to occur in the groups at this stage. Make sure students have enough time to think and work alone.
  5. Students share, discuss and clarify ideas that have been written by each member of the group. Remind students that they have the option to pass, especially if they do not know each other well or it is their first attempt at a placemat.
  6. The group shares and reviews all ideas to reach a consensus on one set of key ideas.
  7. The key ideas are written in the middle section of the placemat.

These key ideas are shared with the class and discussed further to enrich learning.

1 Comment

  1. Paul showed me how to use the ultimate graphic organiser – Inspiration.
    I’m planning on trying this with my Year 9’s when we look at types of data and what type of graph to choose depending on the type of data of the IV and DV. Will update!

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