Memory Bubbles


Memory bubbles are a type of concept mapping, in which students record and organize the people, problems, solutions, and resulting changes associated with key ideas in a reading. Students generally create between one and five memory bubbles for a given reading, one for each key idea that is associated with a problem/solution relationship. This activity is adapted from Facing History and Ourselves (

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Questioning
Problem Solution

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Text-Based Answers
  • Writing from Sources


Select the target text. It should describe a sequence of events, and should be able to be characterized through a problem/solution framework. Create memory bubble templates for each student, or create a model that they can copy on their own papers. The templates should have a central circular or rectangular “bubble,” surrounded by four smaller “branch bubbles” that are connected to the central bubble by lines. The “branch bubbles” should be labeled “Who/What”, “Problems”, “Solutions”, and “Changes”.

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher leads class in a discussion of a familiar topic, and guides students toward understanding how topics become more interesting when viewed through a problem/solution framework.

    Pick a game, event, or narrative in which students are interested. List the basic facts of the narrative on the board: names, statistics, places, and dates. Ask students if this list of facts really captures the significance and drama of the event. They will say no. Ask them what is missing from this list of facts, and as they retell the narrative, guide them towards an analysis of the problems and solutions within the narrative. Emphasize that whatever the students are studying (history, a novel) is not just a series of isolated facts, but is rather an exciting series of human problems and solutions.

  2. Distribute target text. In groups or individually, have students identify key terms from the text. They highlight these terms and record them in a list. Key terms are words that express important ideas from the reading.

    Circulate as students are working. Five to ten key terms are probably best. If you want to scaffold this activity more, you can identify the key terms for the students or with the students. You may also want to record all the key terms in a central location such as the board.

  3. Teacher models completing a Memory Bubble: key term goes in the center, and the “branch bubbles” include who/what is involved in this phenomenon, the problems involved, the solution(s), and the changes that resulted.

    Think aloud as you model completion of this Memory Bubble, and display completed bubble to the class.

  4. In groups or individually students complete a Memory Bubble for each key term that they identified.

    Circulate among students and confer with them as they are working. You can easily do this activity with fewer terms if you want a shorter activity.

  5. Students share out their work through class discussion, pair share, or a gallery walk.

    Decide how you want students to share out their work efficiently and productively; options include class discussion, pair share, and gallery walk. Guide students in a discussion of the different problems they identified, the solutions, and how this framework affects understanding of events. Using Post-it notes or oral comments, students should identify notable features of their classmates’ work.

  6. Students reflect on their learning, either individually or in groups.

    Either in writing or orally, students respond to questions including: · What did you learn today? · How did you learn this? · What strategies did you use? · How did using a Memory Bubble affect your learning? · Why do people find it helpful to think of phenomena through cause and effect? · How might you use this strategy in a different class?

Downloadable Resources 
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