Teaching Mind-Mapping Skills

The reasons to teach students to create mind-maps (also known as concept maps) and to help them to develop mind-mapping skills are:

  • Mind-mapping helps students to organise learning

  • Mind-mapping, as a form of note-taking, helps students to retain knowledge

  • Concept-mapping allows students to explore connections between topics and ideas

  • As a form of note-taking: mind-mapping is faster and more efficient compared to writing full prose

  • Mind-mapping is ideal for fast essay-planning (i.e. as an exam technique for 16+ students)

  • Mind-mapping can be used in metacognitive tasks to foster metacognition

  • Mind-mapping is a versatile tool: it can be used for revision, planning, brainstorming and is suitable for group-work and tasks where students work alone.

  • Concept-mapping aids in developing higher-level thinking skills (create, analyse, evaluate)

  • Mind-mapping encourages students synthesise and integrate information, ideas and concepts

  • It allows for greater creativity than other forms of note-taking: students can incorporate symbols, doodles and colour into their designs: this makes them more engaging and memorable


How to Create a Simple Mind-Map

Concept maps are typically hierarchical, with the subordinate concepts stemming from the main concept or idea. This type of graphic organiser always allows for later change and new concepts to be added. The Rubber Sheet Analogy states that concept positions on a map can continuously change, while always maintaining the same relationship with the other ideas on the map.

1. Start with a main idea, topic, or issue to focus on.

A helpful way to determine the context of your mind-map is to choose a focus question—something that needs to be solved or a conclusion that needs to be reached. Once a topic or question is decided on, that will help with the hierarchical structure of the concept map.

2. Then determine the key concepts

Find the key concepts that connect and relate to your main idea and rank them; most general, inclusive concepts come first, then link to smaller, more specific concepts.

3. Finish by connecting concepts--creating linking phrases and words

Once the basic links between the concepts are created, add cross-links, which connect concepts in different areas of the map, to further illustrate the relationships and strengthen student’s understanding and knowledge on the topic.

Other Features

Mind-maps can incorporate a wide range of other features:

  • Questions which then branch out into potential answers (which can then be ranked/highlighted)

  • 'Memory Symbols' - simple icons that help students to remember ideas on the mind-map

  • Colour - using different colours to emphasise and organise different parts of the mind-map, to show different types of connection or simply to decorate the mind-map to enhance its design and make it more memorable

  • Drawings & doodles

  • Printed graphics - providing students with a selection of attractive printed graphics can be a fun way to help students create engaging mind-maps and hint to less able students as to how they might want to organise/structure their mind-map.


Tips & Ideas for Teaching & Developing Mind-Mapping Skills

  1. Model mind-mapping skills by creating mind-maps on the board during group discussions and feed-back. Have students create their own mind-maps based on your own.

  2. Create simple, printable, mind-map templates that students can build on and work with: especially when working with lower-ability students or introducing the idea of mind-mapping

  3. Establish a pattern of regular practice. For example, have a mind-mapping task based on the lesson's 'Big Question' on the board as a 'hook' for every lesson

  4. Incorporate mind-mapping tasks into worksheet designs so that students get regular practice

  5. Model the various uses of mind-maps depending on the challenge at hand: essay-planning, concept-organisation, note-taking etc.

  6. Ask students to think about the basics of effective mind-mapping: "How can I improve my mind-map?", "What could I add to make this mind-map more memorable/useful?"

  7. Encourage students to identify and reflect on the benefits of mind-mapping, "Why am I taking notes this way instead of making bullet-points?", "What are the advantages of capturing information in this way?"

  8. When modelling mind-mapping skills: appoint a student to help decorate your mind-map with appropriate symbols and designs.

  9. Use free online mind-map making tools during the lesson [after a bit of practice!] to show students that they exist: you can then print off your finished mind-map and have students glue them into their exercise books.

  10. Always use as few a words as possible: avoid full-sentences and stick to key concepts, essential information, and short questions.

  11. Use competitive mind-map making challenges and games to foster engagement. This can be particularly useful in smaller groups where each team has their own half of the board; alternatively teams can create their mind-maps on large sheets of paper and present ideas back.

  12. Encourage Higher-Order Thinking Skills by having students evaluate ideas through their mind-maps; for example, a mind-map should include 'For vs Against' branches where concepts are open to critical-analysis.


Important Resources & Downloads

Download our mind-mapping skills teaching resource: The Power of Mind-Maps! It includes ten resources and is a comprehensive and definitive way to teach mind-mapping skills to students aged 11-18, those ten resources are:

  1. Introducing Mind-Maps

  2. Introduction, Applications & Benefits of Mind-Maps

  3. Mind-Map Reading Comprehension Templates (x10)

  4. Mind-Map Worksheets to Use With Long Documentaries

  5. The Mind-Map Challenge

  6. Mind-Maps for Brainstorming & Group Work (P4C Related)

  7. Video Learning Session [Videos About Mind-Mapping & A3 Worksheets (x3)]

  8. Generic Mind-Map Practice Templates (x4)

  9. Using Mind-Maps for Speed Reading & Fast Note-Taking

  10. Mind-Maps for Personal Reflection & DIRT (A3 & A4 Worksheets)

As you can see, this collection of mind-mapping practice activities also connects with broader metacognitive and learning-power skills and development. Download today to help teach this important metacognitive skill to your students!

All our downloads include a whole-school license for up to fifty users: that means you can share it with teachers within your school at no additional cost!