Reading Rockets shares that "A concept map is a visual organizer that can enrich students' understanding of a new concept. Using a graphic organizer, students think about the concept in several ways. Most concept map organizers engage students in answering questions such as, "What is it? What is it like? What are some examples?" Concept maps deepen understanding and comprehension." Cast reports: "There is solid evidence for the effectiveness of graphic organizers in facilitating learning." A summary of this finding is that, "When looking across 23 different studies they found a consistent effect on comprehension."
A concept map (often called a graphic organizer) helps students visualize various connections between words or phrases and a main idea. There are several types of concept maps; some are hierarchical, while others connect information without categorizing ideas.
Ideas for using Concepts Maps:
- Develop an understanding of a body of knowledge.
- Explore new information and relationships.
- Access prior knowledge.
- Gather new knowledge and information.
- Share knowledge and information generated.
- Design structures or processes such as written documents, constructions, web sites, web search, multimedia presentations.
- Problem solve options.
Examples in the Classroom:
- Use a concept map at the beginning of a new unit to assess students’ prior knowledge. Give students a list of vocabulary words or concepts from the unit and ask them to place them on the concept map. At the end of the unit, repeat the activity and compare the two maps.
- Use a concept map as a writing graphic organizer. Once the concept map is complete, have students box off related groups and have them turn each box into a paragraph.
- Use a concept map to show ideas and relationships about a character in a novel. Students can draw a picture of the character in the middle and then complete the concept map. Students can compare and contrast their concept maps with other students and discuss their different ideas about the same character.
- Use a concept map throughout a unit and have students place each vocabulary word or concept as they go. For example, when working on a science or math unit, as each new vocabulary word is introduced, ask student to take out their concept maps and place the word in the appropriate spot. Discuss why students chose that particular place.
- Use a concept map as a way to let the student demonstrate their knowledge. Stop here. This may be all that you need.
Concept maps have been shown to support struggling readers (Lovitt and Horton, 1994) by building off of students' prior knowledge and asking them to reflect on their understanding while reading. They are easy to construct and can be used across all content areas.
Concept Maps and Assistive Technology:
Concepts maps not only help with comprehension but can support the writing process. There are a wide range of assistive technology (AT) tools available to help students who struggle with writing. Some of these tools help students circumvent the actual physical task of writing, while others facilitate proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, word usage, and organization. Concept maps help users who have trouble organizing and outlining information as they begin a writing project. This type of program lets a user quickly provide information in an unstructured manner and can later help to organize the information into appropriate categories and order. This type of tool benefits people who struggle with writing. A concept map can also be used for demonstrating knowledge without having to take it to a next step.
Multiple Intelligences / Learning Styles Supported:
- Visual-Spatial: Helps students to think in pictures and create a mental image to retain information. Visual learners learn best through visual representations such as charts and diagrams.
- Logical-Mathematical: Students use logic to organize information, classify and categorize, make connections and build relationships. Auditory skills are used.
- Verbal-Linguistic: Helps students to organize words in a way that makes sense. Information is presented auditorily through lectures/discussions and through think-alouds.
- Lucid Chart (free for K-12 classrooms)
- VUE (Visual Understanding Environment)
- Inspiration: Teaching and Learning with Concept Maps
- Reading Rockets: Concept Maps Visual Learning - Concept Maps
- The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How To Construct Them by Joseph D. Novak, Cornell University