The more students engage with complex topics, the more challenging it becomes to understand and visualize the relationships between concepts. Concept mapping provides an opportunity to physically arrange ideas in logical order.
Besides helping students identify the relationships between ideas, concept mapping provides valuable insights into how students are thinking. That can help you identify major misconceptions before testing time.
Identify key terms, skills, names, places, dates, etc. that your students need to know. Select a concept mapping tool (see suggestions below) and place these items as individual shapes on the canvas. Instruct students to organize the objects. Do not give them any additional instruction, advice, or hints. Let them struggle through the cognitive process of creating order from the provided items. Depending on the topic, however, you may want to provide some initial structure to your concept map. For example, in a history class, you may want to include a rough timeline on which students can place important people, events, battles, etc. In a science classroom, you may offer a Venn diagram for organizing terms.
This assignment works best as a formative assessment lesson which can be adapted for all grade levels and subject area.
Be prepared to see some very creative organizational strategies! The beauty of this assignment is that it has no correct answer – and students have the freedom to come up with their own solutions, some of which you may not have considered. Grade students on the process, not their final solutions.
Concept Mapping Tools:
Google Drawing – Simple yet effective. Integrates with Google Classroom,
which makes distributing templates very easy.
Collabrify Map – A product specifically developed for the K-12 classroom,
featuring the elements of Google Drawing. Excellent for younger children.
MindMup – Simple to use; no signup or login required. Connects with Google Drive. Great for elementary and middle school students.
Lucid Chart, Mind Meister, Draw.io – Very powerful tools with complex shapes and relationships and a large number of templates. They may be overwhelming for younger students.
Each of the tools in bold offer a Chrome Web App. Search for them by name in the Chrome Webstore.
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