Despite waxing poetic about microcredentials before, it has been almost two years since I’ve completed my first one. It seemed about time to rectify that, so I completed the Mapping Concepts microcredential. This post explains how I use concept maps in the classroom.
What are Concept Maps?
Concept maps have become one of my go-to review activities for lessons. You may know them by another name or in a different form, but this is how I use them in my lessons.
First, I usually model what I expect to my students. I get them to volunteer some vocabulary words from the unit. I write two on the board, draw a line between them, and write on the line some sort of connection between them. Connections can be wide ranging. One may cause the other, or be an example. Connections can be similarities or differences. I take a few more vocabulary words, and add them on, developing more of a map structure and showing the students how one term can have multiple connections. If I have samples of maps from a previous lesson, I will show students those as well, as the student-made maps are more extensive than my whiteboard sample.
Then, I display using a projector or write on the whiteboard a list of vocabulary terms and concepts from the unit. Students work individually or in pairs, but I tend to do more of the latter.
And, that’s it. I find students are usually quite focused on the task. When they get stuck, I suggest words that they could pair together or that they could add to the map, and that is usually enough to get them going again.
Why Use Concept Maps?
If you are familiar with my blog, you are familiar with my argument regarding knowledge. Rich, developed schemas of knowledge are important for students to have in long-term memory. The maps help students network concepts together and supports schema development.
The mapping activity also strengthens memory. Creating connections is a form of elaboration. You can combine it with another study strategy and have students treat it as retrieval practice. When I do this, I have students work from memory for a period of time, then allow them to check their notes; however, anything they add from their notes must be in a different colour, so they can see clearly what they know and don’t know.
As well, the maps help students see the importance of the different terms. Rather than a seriously of isolated terms, they accumulate to form an understanding of the topic and discipline. Mapping it out visually makes that more apparent for students.
Example of a Concept Map
My current school has a strict policy about not posting student work on social media, which I am completely fine with. So, in lieu of student-made examples, I have instead made my own.
I am also completing online IB training so, in the interest of treating this as a learning exercise for myself, I mapped the IB learner profile characteristics.
It was a useful exercise, in helping me see connections between the different attributes.
Well, this is highly unusual. A short blog post. Hope it was helpful, and you find a way to use this activity in your own classroom!