Thinking Maps As Tools For Learning

Used in K-12 education, thinking maps are visual learning tools.

Thinking maps, developed by David Hyerle, are a visual learning tool. This learning tool uses the process of having students group objects or ideas to increase learning. Although there are eight different types of thinking maps, they all employ this same basic idea of visual learning for retaining content knowledge in K-12 education.

Bubble and Double Bubble Maps

Use a bubble map to help students define objects with adjectives. The main word or object, such as banana, is placed in a circle in the center of the page. Lines are drawn from the center circle to smaller surrounding circles with a word or phrase to define the object. Examples of words or phrases for banana are fruit, yellow, has a peel and grows on a tree. This type of thinking map can be used for simple concepts or to help with larger projects such as defining a character in a story. Another thinking map that corresponds is the double bubble map that is used in the same way for comparing and contrasting ideas.

Tree Map

Instruct students to use a tree map for grouping or classifying items. Two or more items are placed on a line at the top of the page with a straight line under it that connects it to members of the group. For example; fruits and vegetables are placed at the top of the tree map with corresponding group members below each. This type of map can be used across the curriculum to compare different groups. In social studies you can have students compare and list union and confederate military generals, protagonists and antagonists in literature and herbivores and carnivores in science.

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Flow Map

Teach students to order events with a flow map. This thinking map consists of rectangular boxes drawn with arrows connecting them to show the order of events. Similar to a traditional timeline, a flow map can allow students to analyze events in literature or history. This tool helps students to put a visual image to events that they have studied.

Bridge Map

Examine analogies with a bridge map in class. This thinking tool utilizes two straight lines that meet in an upward pointing arrow. Two concepts are placed on the lines and the key concept that joins them is written above the arrow. An example of this type of thinking map would be placing the words Hawaii and Alaska on the straight lines and the term non-contiguous states above the arrow linking them.

Brace Map

Identify partial or whole relationships by using a brace map. This thinking map is similar to a tree map, except that it runs from left to right instead of top to bottom. The main idea is placed on the far left and then specified as the map runs to the right. For example, NCAA sports can be placed on the left with more specific ideas such as women’s and men’s sports and their examples spreading to the right.

Multi-flow Map

Analyzing cause and effect can be done by using a multi-flow map. Similar to a bubble map, the multi-flow map has a central word or cause. The outlying concepts are direct effects of the inner word. For example; drought is the central word or cause; the effects could be low crop yield, higher produce costs and bad soil for the next growing season.

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Circle Map

Use the circle map thinking tool to help students define content. This map is similar to the brace map where it breaks a group into specific categories. However, it is set up to look like a bullseye. Starting on the outside circles of the bullseye, students define a concept or term more specifically as they move toward the center of the circle where the main idea is placed.