Teaching Ideas For Thinking Maps

Thinking maps are used to visually display content thought processes.

Thinking maps are a type of graphic organizer used to arrange educational concepts into a more visual form. There are many different types of thinking maps, including the circle, bubble, flow, brace, bridge, tree, multi-flow and double-bubble. Teachers may use these organizers to view the thought processes of their students in any grade, academic level or subject area.

Language Arts

Thinking maps can be used by students to develop English language vocabulary. Designate the start of a tree thinking map with a prefix such as “tri-” and instruct students to brainstorm words beginning with it. Tricycle, tripod and triangle are three examples of potential thought processes. Each student describes the “tri” words and finds the commonalities between them — each contain three of something.

Circle thinking maps, appearing as a bullseye, can be used when reading literary pieces. In the center, students write “characters” and outside it, they designate all main and secondary characters in the story.


In math, thinking maps can be used when analyzing word problems. For younger students, use a bubble map to organize all the key words in a math story that lead them to use addition. In the center bubble, students write “addition” and the connecting bubbles can include the words “sum,” “total” and “all together.”

Flow thinking maps, visually representing a step-by-step process, designate the process used to configure an algebraic equation. The first square displays the initial equation and is connected to each step used to solve it.

Social Studies

Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of immigration into the U.S. using a thinking map to arrange the information. A multi-flow map would be an appropriate choice for two conflicting ideas. The map contains one centralized square for the main idea: immigration. On each side, lines connecting the central square to squares on either the right (benefits) and left (disadvantages) display the ideas.

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Compare and contrast World Wars I and II using a double-bubble thinking map. The organizer contains a centralized circle on each side with “similarity” and “difference” bubbles coming from it.


Use a brace thinking map, which visually displays the breakdown of a whole item into its parts in science class. Divide a chemistry substance such as water into two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom on a thinking map. Challenge students to break down larger elements into parts.

A bridge thinking map is commonly used in analogies and can be adapted to science concepts such as comparing body organs with other items, i.e., a pump can be compared to a heart and a drinking water filter compared to a kidney.