Concept Maps


Concept maps are a visual representation of interrelated ideas. Creating concept maps helps students to recognize and remember the hierarchical and horizontal relationships among words and ideas, and to represent these relationships both visually and cognitively. Concepts or ideas are written in bubbles and connected by lines as appropriate. Hierarchical relationships are represented vertically, and other interrelationships are represented horizontally. This activity helps students to consolidate and integrate areas of knowledge.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Visualizing
Considering Big Ideas

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline


  • Create or find several models of concept maps to share with students.
  • Identify the topic about which you would like students to create concept maps.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher displays and reviews models of concept maps with the students.

    When this strategy is first introduced, students will need to see and hear a lot of modeling and thinking aloud. After completing this activity several times it should be sufficient for students to have a brief review.

  2. Teacher introduces the topic or text to the students. In groups or individually, students generate a list of no more than 20 terms or concepts related to the topic or text

    If you want to scaffold this activity for students, you can provide all or some of these terms for them.

  3. Students rank the terms according to how important or general they are.

    If may be easier for students to think flexibly about the concepts or terms if they write each on a separate index card or Post-it.

  4. Students physically arrange the concepts in hierarchical order.

    Students can do this on their desks with cards or Post-its, on paper with a pencil or pen, or through many possible apps on a computer or tablet.

  5. Students arrange the concepts horizontally to represent relationships. Students copy their maps onto paper, drawing a circle or square around each term, and representing their hierarchical relationships vertically, and other relationships horizontally. St

    You can also encourage students to find other ways to represent meaning, such as making important terms bigger, or color-coding related terms. They can be creative to make these maps as meaningful as possible

Downloadable Resources 
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