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.