To accompany the Generic Learning Mat, I’ve created a complementary Activity Mat focused around a few simple activities that range from practicing paragraph writing to making synoptic connections between concepts, theories and methods.

This particular Mat contains 5 activities and it’s again been created in PowerPoint (use the Export function if you want it in a different format, such as a pdf file or Word document) to make it easy to edit. You might, for example, use a different mnemonic for the Paragraph Practice activity or want to replace some or all of the activities I’ve chosen with your own.


These are, in no particular order:

1. Synoptic Snap: The idea here is for students to think about how a concept / theory / method they use for one Unit or Module (such as Education / Differential Achievement) can also be applied in other Units (such as Crime and Deviance). The ability to “think synoptically” can help students develop “transferrable content”: applying a theory or concept they understand in one context to a different context.

2. Picture This: Students create a simple “aide memoire” to help recall key concepts / theories / methods by associating them with something visual.

3. Paragraph Practice: I’ve based this on the widely-used PEEL mnemonic and the idea here is to get students regularly writing paragraphs, using this device, so that a highly-structured paragraph that ticks all the assessment boxes becomes second nature by the time they hit the exam. I’ve purposely restricted it to a single paragraph for a couple of reasons:

1. It takes up much less class time than if the student had to write a complete exam answer.

2. Students who are less confident in their ability to write extended answers can gain confidence by taking relatively small steps towards building an answer. Once students get used to being able to construct coherent paragraphs, they can move-on to extended answers that involve stringing a number of paragraphs together.

The Relate…To boxes at the top of the page act as reminders and prompts for this activity:

Relate [concept / theory / method] should be the same as you’ve used for the Generic Mat (some of the activities, such as Paragraph Practice, will draw on the information students have included in the Generic Mat).

To [an area of the course such as a Unit (e.g. Education), Module (such as The Role of Education) or a direct question].

If you’re not familiar with the PEEL mnemonic I’ve added an extra slide, created by Kate Henney, to the PowerPoint that:

1. Outlines the basic idea behind each letter.

2. Provides some examples of phrases students can use to introduce each aspect of the mnemonic.

4. What Are You Like? In a similar way to “Picture This” the idea is to see if students can come up with an analogy for whatever concept / theory / method has been set (a bit like the way students are introduced to Functionalism using an Organismic analogy – “Society is like a human body”). Jill Swale’s “Using Analogies in Sociology” article may be useful and instructive here.

5. Relationships: The idea here is to encourage students, when they think about a concept / theory / method to come-up with a few further ideas closely-connected to it. This should encourage them to think about how apparently discrete ideas can be linked to create chains that will serve them well in an exam: by remembering one idea they are likely to immediately remember two or three further ideas…

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