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Using Mind Mapping to Help Your Students

written by: gnufie • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/17/2012

Mind mapping techniques have been proven to help students learn and retain new material, but many of us get put off from using them as the idea seems complicated at first. Let us walk you through it as we learn the simple techniques now.

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    Let's Explain What a Mind Map Is

    What is mind mapping? A mind map consists of a central idea encased in a circle, with other ideas shown as radiating from it. Each idea coming directly from the central concept is considered to be a main branch, and each main branch may have other branches coming from it. The overall appearance is similar to the branches on a tree, all stemming from the main concept at the center. A mind map can be used as an active learning technique, to help reinforce concepts from a lesson, or it can be used to generate ideas in a specific area of learning.

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    Creating a Mind Map

    To create a mind map, use a blank sheet of paper. In the center of it, write a main or central concept. Surround this with a circle. From this central concept write other concepts that relate to the first one. Use free-flowing association and write anything that comes to mind, whether it seems useful or not. Circle each of these secondary concepts and link them to the main idea with a line. Then add additional concepts which relate to the secondary ideas, linking them to the appropriate secondary concept with lines. You can carry out this mind mapping for as many levels as you wish. The ultimate result is a central idea, with sub-topics scattered around it. You can think of a mind map as being something like a free-flowing outline. Free tools for creating mind maps online can be found in this article.

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    Uses in the Classroom

    As a teacher, you might ask yourself what is mind mapping, and how do I use it in the classroom? To use mind mapping as a way to learn new material, incorporate the technique into your lesson. After you have covered a subject with some basic information on the subject, draw a mind map on the board at the front of the room. You can also draw the mind map using an overhead projector, or with one of the online tools mentioned above.

    Have the students copy the mind map into their notes as you go. Put the main subject of the material just covered into a circle in the center of the page. Now have the students help you create the mind map by contributing topics which tie directly into the main subject. Link these to the main subject using the visual technique of the mind map, then add layers of information linking to each secondary topic. Continue building your map until you have all the main points of the subject covered. By being actively involved in creating a group mind map, the students will tend to retain the new material much longer than they would have otherwise.

    In order to use mind mapping as a review technique, suggest to the students a list of main topics and have them create a mind map for each topic. This can be done as a group exercise or you can have them do it individually. Mind mapping will help the students to think about the material, identify the important points, and link all of the points in their minds.

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    Final Thoughts

    In addition to using mind mapping to help students learn, many people find it a handy technique to brainstorm ideas for a meeting or explore connections for a new idea. If you are going to teach something new to your students, you might want to try mind mapping as a way to organize your thoughts before the lesson. You might even find that you come up with a few new ideas. Give it a try.

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