Reading Comprehension & The Use Of Thinking Maps

Thinking Maps are tools many teachers use to enhance reading comprehension strategies.

Teachers use various tools to help students organize information into ways for them to easily understand. Reading comprehension is one area where visual organization can help increase comprehension skills. Some students need information to be presented visually for them to fully understand concepts. Dr. David Hyerle developed Thinking Maps to help organize all types of information, but they are particularly useful to reading teachers.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers provide a visual display of information. They can categorize information, compare facts, show relationships between events and organize items into a sequence. Teachers employ graphic organizers in a number of content areas, but they are used most to aid reading comprehension. Many students can learn better if information is presented in different forms. The various types of graphic organizers can facilitate the diverse needs of different learners by illustrating information on ways other than simple text on a page.

Thinking Maps

Thinking Maps is a specific, trademarked brand of graphic organizers. They are intended to be useful across all subject areas, for learners of all ages and for a variety of organizational tasks. The actual thinking maps are similar to some generic graphic organizers, and teachers and students can easily create them by hand or electronically. Since the actual Thinking Maps are simple to recreate and duplicate, Thinking Maps Incorporated provides training materials and professional development to help teachers best use these graphic organizers.


Even though Thinking Maps are not designed specifically for reading instruction, they have been proven to be ideally suited to help students from varied backgrounds achieve greater reading comprehension. Research has shown that targeted use of Thinking Maps by trained teachers does improve reading comprehension. The Minnesota Literacy Council states that one study at Wellstone International High School in 2005 showed students improved dramatically in several components of reading comprehension after being instructed on use the Thinking Maps. The specific comprehension components that showed the greatest improvements were finding the main idea, sequence and cause and effect.

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Types of Maps

The eight types of Thinking Maps are Circle Maps, Tree Maps, Bubble Maps, Double Bubble Maps, Flow Maps, Multi-Flow Maps, Brace Maps and Bridge Maps. All of these organizers are effective comprehension tools but some of them are better tailored for specific comprehension skills. For instance, Bubble Maps are useful for finding details related to a main idea and Flow Maps can help students’ sequencing skills, while Double Bubble Maps are good for comparing and contrasting.