Saturday, February 23, 2013

Concept Maps

Connect: In ECE so much of what we do is support children in building background knowledge/schema. One of the most effective ways we do this is asking the children to make connections to themselves especially since at this age they are still so egocentric. Considering this, I knew that using a Concept Map would be one routine that would be developmentally appropriate for my 4 year olds. I had not read Making Thinking Visible at the time that I tried this routine but had in fact read another book for ECE (Young Investigators) over the summer that had talked about Concept Maps. It however did not offer the detail of a Concept Map as a thinking routine in that it did not go as deep as to demonstrate making connections between ideas. Now however based on Making Thinking Visible, I have a much clearer sense of how to use this as a thinking routine with my students.

What I did: At the beginning of each year, we do an All About Me Unit. Thinking about this I thought a Concept Map would be a meaningful introduction into our Unit. The children had some familiarity with it as we used a concept map and inquiry circle to talk about school. Of course since my children are not yet reading or writing at this stage, we did this as a whole group with me taking dictation as the children shared their ideas. They basically just took turns adding to the map as I jotted down their ideas.

Extend: Using the Concept map helped me not only to understand how I could use the Concept Map as a pre-assessment to drive my instruction but also see how I could support them in understanding how to make connections between ideas. I also learned that it is a great tool to help them collaborate and learn from one another.

Challenges: Because I am dealing with emergent writers and readers, my challenge with this routine is considering how to use pictures or other symbols as a means to be able to go back to the map at a later date so the children can comprehend it and use it as a visual tool. I don't know how else to make it useful for my students without having to always verbally summarize it for them and yet adding enough pictures and symbols is very labor intensive.  Considering this, my challenge is using it during the unit to review and demonstrate new learning. Next Time, I would definitely add more pictures and color to illustrate new learning. And now that I have read about it in our book, I have a better idea of how to use it as a means to make connections rather than just as a map.


  1. The concept map is so clear and easy! I love it and think the addition of pictures will be so meaningful for ECE (all of us!). Recently, I spoke with a teacher who used it for their rainforest study. She continued to add to it over the course of their learning. Each time the would revisit the concept map, they would write in a new color. The children could see how their knowledge was growing and growing. Then they started to make connections on the concept map and one student said, "It looks like all of the connections in our brains!" Why, yes it does!

  2. I have never been a big advocate of concept maps, but the more I see them used effectively as you have done here, the more that I know that it can benefit students learning. I think this would be especially useful for concepts like studying cells in seventh grade science. It is a central concept that branches off into many areas like photosynthesis, cellular respiration, genetics, etc. I may try as a culminating lesson this year.

  3. Leslie-

    The concept map is a great way to track thinking around a central idea. You writing while they dictate sets them up for a text rich environment and an environment where their thinking has meaning. You could also use it to demonstrate areas that are NOT connected and have the kids cut those parts off in order to stay on topic as they struggle at that age with this skill.


  4. I agree with you about the difficulty in making the text accessible to young children. Even as a first grade teacher, I always want to make whole group thiking available to all students, even non-readers. Although I haven't tried it myself, I have heard that there is a program called picture maker that would make the whole clip-art thing easier. Who ever tries it first has to tell the other...