Mind Mapping


Mind mapping is a structured activity through which students identify and solidify associations among words and concepts, and work to organize their associations into structures. By connecting and structuring their related knowledge, students develop a stronger ability to represent, retain, and recall this information efficiently and accurately.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Inferring
Considering Big Ideas, Memory Development

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts


Gather large poster paper sheets, enough markers for each student, and a set of Post-its each student. Alternatively, you could use one of many computer programs that allow you to create a mind map virtually and collectively. Select a set of terms that are centrally related to the unit of study. There should be enough terms for each small group of students. Prepare a model mind map with students. Consider creating a partially complete one that you then can complete, while thinking aloud, with the students before they make their own.

Activity Steps 
  1. Students get into small groups or pairs. Each group should have one piece of poster paper, one pen for each student, and one set of Post-its for each student.

    Consider assigning groups, taking care to group students who work together efficiently.

  2. The teacher gives each group a key term. Students write the term in the center of their paper.

    Terms should be interesting, evocative, and central to the main idea of whatever you are studying.

  3. For two minutes, each student silently brainstorms words and phrases related to the key term, writes them on sticky notes, and puts them on the paper.

    You may need to model this process ahead of time. Consider completing this process alongside students in one of the groups. Discourage students from reading what others write. Make sure they know that any associated term or phrase is “right.”

  4. After two minutes, each group rotates to the next table, and completes the same association activity at the new table with the new term. Students should NOT read what others have written at this point.
  5. Students continue this process until all students have brainstormed associations with all terms.
  6. Students return to their original table.
  7. In groups, students remove the Post-its from the paper. Looking at all the Post-its, they determine the different categories that the ideas fall in.

    You should circulate and confer with students as they work for the remainder of the lesson. Students will likely need modeling and explicit instruction on grouping items into categories and developing category names.

  8. After they have identified the relevant categories, students rearrange the Post-its back on the paper, grouping similarly categorized ideas together in clusters. They draw a circle or other shape around each cluster, and then label each cluster with a cat

    Many students will need modeling and explicit instruction before they are ready to complete this portion independently. Some students may want to hierarchically (or otherwise) arrange their clusters. This is a logical next step for higher-level students and should be encouraged.

  9. Each student gets markers. Students create mind maps of the key term and the organized, associated ideas. The mind maps should have a key word and image in the center, with branching and organized images, words, and phrases around them. Mind maps should

    Here are some models of mind maps: http://www.12manage.com/images/ picture_mind_mapping.jpg http://www.tonybuzan.com/images/ mm_health.jpg http://www.mindmapinspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/ curious-brain-mind-map-10.jpg

  10. Student groups take turns sharing mind maps with peers, through a gallery walk, oral presentation, or pair-share. As students view each other’s work, they reflect on the questions: · How are your peer’s mind maps similar to yours and how are they differe

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

Mind Maps encourage deep math concept development, and could be used to highlight the various ways a math concept can be structured.  For instance, having students create maps for "fraction", "decimal", and "percent" would encourage them to think not only about algorithms but also definitions, examples, representations, and how those ideas are interrelated as they organize them.

Downloadable Resources 
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