Concept maps are a tool for brainstorming.
Concept maps are a brainstorming method that simplify and organize ideas. They are not limited to abstract, complex projects. As a visual tool, even elementary school students can benefit from having a method for demonstrating the way subjects seem to be related. They can be created as a class project, for organizing thoughts on a particular lesson; or they can be assigned as an individual project, to help students demonstrate their level of comprehension.
1. Start with a blank sheet or writing surface, and ask for a flurry of input. At this phase, students should get used to writing down any and all ideas concerning a particular topic, without regard for their value. For example, if the concept map will be focused on a book that the class has read, students should feel free to insert the names of characters, places, or foods that appeared in the story. The goal is to generate as many different subjects to begin with — in order to end up with a thorough concept map.
2. Organize several subjects that were submitted during the initial brainstorming phase — by grouping the items that seem related together. To do this, use different colored markers — to draw a circle in a single color — around related topics. Blue, for instance, might indicate people, red might indicate cars, and green might indicate animals. Once these groups become apparent, it is okay to add more subjects to them. For the sake of keeping things simple enough for elementary school students to comprehend, stick with three or four main groups.
3. Grab a clean sheet of paper. This will be used as the final draft of the concept map. On this sheet, decide upon a layout for displaying each of the categories, or groups of subjects that have been identified. You could divide the sheet into quadrants, or arrange the groups in a circle. For each group, indicate the heading or name of the group — then add the subjects, to show hierarchy, ranging from most to least important.
4. Draw lines connecting groups that have some relation to one another. Using arrows at the end of the lines can guide the flow of the reader, through the concept map.
5. Finalize the project by using small illustrations, extra lines for emphasis on important headings and any other visual graphics that help to clarify understanding. You might choose to leave enough room in some hierarchies for adding more subjects at a later date.