3 Teaching concept mapping

As with anything new, students need time to learn how to make concept maps. In the next case study, Mrs Bhatia explains how she taught her students about concept mapping.

Case Study 2: Teaching students concept mapping

My name is Mrs Bhatia. I wanted to use concept maps with my students when I was teaching them about the chemistry of water.

First I had to teach them how to make a concept map. I started by modelling how to do it using a topic that was simple, familiar and outside the topic I was going to teach. I did this because I wanted them to focus on the concept mapping process, rather than the topic. The topic I chose was ‘countries’. We brainstormed what came to mind. I selected six key words (‘country’, ‘sea’, ‘land’, ‘state’, ‘continent’ and ‘border’) to keep it as simple as possible. I put the words on pieces of paper, big enough so that they could all see them. I explained the process and took them through the steps, building up the concept map on the blackboard. I used questions to get them involved – for example, ‘How are state and country linked?’

Then, once I had shown them, I gave them the chance to do one for themselves. This time the topic was ‘living things’. Again, we brainstormed what came to mind. I circled nine key words on the blackboard: ‘living things’, ‘animals’, ‘plants’, ‘cow’, ‘tree’, ‘grass’, ‘water’, ‘air’ and ‘human’. They did their own maps. I went around and encouraged and helped them to make links between pairs of words. When they had finished, they compared their map with a classmate’s.

Pause for thought

What preparation would Mrs Bhatia have had to do for teaching her students about concept mapping?

Before you can do Activity 4, you will need to teach your students how to construct a concept map.

Select a topic that your students will be familiar with but is not necessarily what they will be studying next. It does not have to be associated with something you are teaching. The aim is for them to understand the technique and the nature of concept maps rather than produce a concept map that covers an entire topic or assesses their understanding.

Activity 3: Introducing your students to concept mapping

Plan the activity first. You could follow all the following steps as a lesson plan or amend them as you wish.

  1. Place a glass of water on the desk in front of the class and explain to your students that you are going to show them how to create a concept map.
  2. Write ‘water’ in the centre of the blackboard and draw a box around it. Ask them to tell you what comes to mind. Ask questions to prompt their thinking – for example:
    • What does water look like?
    • What does water feel like?
    • What does it smell or taste of?
    • What are its uses?
    • What are the sources of water?
    • How does water behave?
  3. Now choose five to ten concepts that are linked, for example ‘water’, ‘liquid’, ‘rain’, ‘river’, ‘sea’, ‘ice’ and ‘cloud’.
  4. Ask the students to choose two terms that are connected to one another. Write these on the blackboard, leaving space for the link words. Ask the students how these two terms can be linked. Stress that there are different ways and there are no right answers.
  5. Get the students to make links between pairs of other words.
  6. While they are doing that, write the concept words on the blackboard as the basis for the concept map.
  7. Show the pupils how to link the pairs of concept words with arrows and make them into a concept map. Ask the students for possible link words between pairs of concept words. Write the link words on the blackboard with the lines and arrows to complete the map.
  8. Next, give your students the opportunity to construct their own concept map as individuals. You could use any topic or use these words:
    • ‘liquid’, ‘solid’, ‘gas’, ‘ice’, ‘water’, ‘water vapour’, ‘air’, ‘water’
    • ‘washing’, ‘soap’, ‘towel’, ‘drying’, ‘clothes’, ‘hands’, ‘water’.

    When you have carried out his activity, note your answers to the following questions:

    • How did your students respond to the concept mapping activity?
    • If you did the activity again, what would you do differently to improve it?
    • Did some students find it more difficult to understand than others?
    • How did you help the students that found it difficult?

Pause for thought

How could you use concept maps with your younger students? How could you support students who are struggling with using concept maps?

2 Interpreting a concept map

Supporting all students