3 Making a concept map

A concept map places more emphasis on making connections between key words and concepts than a mind map. It uses a visual diagrammatic representation of knowledge with lines and arrows to make links between key words. The idea is that the key words and the linking words make a meaningful sentence.

Concept maps are particularly helpful for assessing students’ understanding of a topic. There is an example of a concept map in Resource 5.

Activity 3: Making a concept map

You should do this activity on your own and then with your class. Your class should do the activity in groups of three of four.

  1. Make a list of about 20 key words associated with the topic of acids, bases and salts.
  2. Write each word on a separate piece of paper.
  3. Place the words on a large piece of poster paper. Put words that are related near to each other. When you are happy with the arrangement, stick the words down with glue or sticky tape.
  4. Draw lines to connect the terms that are related. Write a few words on the connecting arrow to explain the connection. The words that are at one end of the arrow, on the arrow and at the other end of the arrow should make a sentence.
  5. When your students do this activity, look carefully at their concept maps. What do they tell you about their understanding? Are there topics that they are finding difficult? Is there a topic you need to discussion again in the next lesson?

Case Study 3: Thinking about how to make groups

Mr Singh thinks about how to divide students into groups.

I decided to get my class to make a concept map. At first I thought I would use mixed ability groups on the basis that the high attainers would be able to help my students who find science difficult. This has worked well in the past, but there is a danger that the people who are confident will take over. This time, I put my students into groups based on their achievement in the last test.

While they were writing the key words onto small pieces of paper, I talked to the groups who I knew would be confident and checked that they understood the task. I was then able to devote myself to the two groups who I knew would find it difficult. In fact, I decided to link the two groups and we did a few examples together. Once they got the idea, I left them to do a few by themselves. But I kept going back to see how they were getting on.

Overall, this approach worked very well. The high attainers produced detailed concept maps with a lot of detail. They really stretched themselves. The concept maps produced by some of the other groups were not as good. But that did not matter, because in the process of doing the activity they had learnt a lot. They had helped each other and looked up definitions of words that they did not know. They were not dominated by people who were very confident. It also gave me the opportunity to see exactly who understood what and who needed more help. It helped me to identify areas to discuss again with my students.

Pause for thought

How do you usually organise the groups in your classroom?

It is a good idea to vary the way in which you split your students into groups. Sometimes, it is helpful for them to work with friends as this will give them confidence. Sometimes it will be helpful for the high attainers to be able to support people who find science more difficult. If the task you have set is open-ended (such as a mind map or a concept map) with no single ‘right answer’, it is a good opportunity to let your students find their own level. High attainers will really challenge each other and you will be free to provide support for those that need more help. Read Resource 6 to find out more about using groupwork in your classroom.