Graphic Organizers/Concept Maps – Limiting or Encouraging Thinking?

I made a concept map that I thought would help the students in their writing. As I observed the students, I realized that my concept map actually stopped their thinking. When students have a paper concept map, they stop when all the bubbles, boxes, or lines are filled in. When they have an online one with bubbles, boxes or lines, they do the same. They fill in the bubbles, boxes or lines and they stop thinking. However, often these concept maps are just the start of the students’ thinking about the topic. The concept maps are more like a writing prompt than the actual writing.

I realize that my concept map did not have enough boxes, bubbles or lines to guide the students to explore the writing topic more thoroughly. Likewise the boxes, bubbles or lines were too small. Once the students have written something that fills the boxes, bubbles, or lines, they stop writing. The boxes, bubbles or lines confine the students.

Cause Effect concept map

This concept map needs to be extended to include the three major examples and the details that the students will use to prove each cause or effect. The concept map will double in size. In addition, if I am using a paper version, I will stretch it out to be a full page so that the students have plenty of writing space. Bigger spaces equals more room for thinking.

What do your concept maps look like? Do they encourage additional thinking or do they stop the students’ thinking?


9 Responses to “Graphic Organizers/Concept Maps – Limiting or Encouraging Thinking?”

  1. 1 Steve Ransom February 22, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    That’s why digital concept maps are so valuable. They can be revised over and over again. I would agree with you that if we give students a fixed concept map, they can complete it – and it CAN be a valuable activity. But, allowing them the flexibility to form their own concept maps works much better with schema theory, allows for divergent thinking, and is a wonderful window into their developing understanding. With a bit of scaffolding, their schematic can evolve to become more and more complex.

  2. 2 tom February 23, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Have you ever used freemind?

  3. 3 hgtuttle February 23, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Great point. The delicate balance is between their creating their concept maps and the scaffolding they need to be able to do it by themselves.

  4. 4 hgtuttle February 23, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I briefly looked at freemind
    I prefer graphic organizers that have shapes, i.e. ones that seem more like Inspiration. I’m a visual persons and for me, a good graphic organizer one that it is easy to put shapes in to represent different topics. Personally, I tend not to like text based graphic organizers.

  5. 5 Patric March 5, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Well to answer your question, my concept maps are usually much larger as I always try to require them to fill in as much information as possible while they are working on the map. For instance, lets say that one cause is a learning disability now have them list three learning disabilities that would be associated with that particular cause.

    In my experience, one of the best benefits of concept mapping, is the student studying the map after he/she completes it. Simply because know they are able to fully absorb the information in front of them, without having to make sense of everything first. It sounds like your idea is good, hope everything works out.

  6. 6 hgtuttle March 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I agree that the students studying or reflecting on the concept map is even more powerful than their creating it. Sort of the synthesis and then the evaluation levels of thinking. It is hard to have students spend time reflecting once they have done it. Any suggestions?

  7. 7 PatricH March 6, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Hi Harry,
    I agree that it is more difficult to get the kids to study the map after its creation. I would suggest using the completed concept map as a study guide for a quiz or other project.
    One other thing to consider that works really well is to have each student fill out the map with all of the main content, using your example in the post, have them fill out the problem, causes and effects and then simply pass it to the next student to continue the map in further detail. What this will do is require each student to again analyze the key information, so that they can build on it. While the information each student writes in the first part of this project is similar, it will of course vary and require each student to re-read and re-analyze it.

  8. 8 hgtuttle March 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for your great example. I really like your make it and pass it on.

  1. 1 Bubble Map Template For Word - Xls Templates Trackback on November 21, 2019 at 6:53 pm

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