What is a mind map?
Mind maps are a visual snapshot of your child’s ideas set out as a diagram. Mind mapping is a planning technique that has been taught in education for many years now. It is a quick and effective way to capture a student’s ideas, see how their ideas link to the question/problem, and to see how everything connects together. It allows your child to present an overview of their knowledge quickly and to see the connections between various points of knowledge. They can get a lot of ideas down speedily and then order those ideas, which is a very valuable tool for exams.
What can mind maps be used for?
In education, your child can use mind maps for all sorts of work. Some of the best-known examples include essay planning, exam answer planning, research planning, group brainstorming sessions and exploring answers to a problem. Mind mapping can be part of the creative process in almost any subject that requires a student to pull together a series of ideas, knowledge and information.
In my subjects, history and English, children usually have a huge amount of information to sort through and include (or disregard) in an essay or exam answer. Without a good plan, it is almost impossible to get the highest grade, so a mind map is a powerful tool for students to organise content and ideas. They are also useful for freeing up the process when a child is stuck and unsure what to write. Once the process begins and a visual map begins to appear, the block frees up and ideas start to flow.
How to create a mind map
The most basic, and very effective, way of creating a mind map is with a simple pen and paper. Your child should start by writing the question/problem in the middle of the page, maybe with a circle or cloud shape around it, and then begin to draw lines radiating out from the centre to simple points, ideas, or information. They can then develop the map by extending it out into branches, with additional knowledge and evidence. If they are writing an essay or in an exam, they should decide the best way to present the information and number the main points.
A mind map is a graphic tool, so it can include colours, shapes, images, or any other representation your child wants to include. It is also possible to adapt online mind mapping tools for education, and your child may find these useful.
Here is a real-life example from one of my younger students, age 12, of a history mind map in progress. Once we had the finished article, she used it to write her essay.
This mind map was created with Mindmeister
Do mind maps work for everyone?
Mind maps work for many people – probably the majority – but not for everyone. Research has shown that up to 80% of the students thought “mindmapping” helped them understand concepts and ideas. However, some students prefer a more linear plan, and prefer to clearly number their points from the start. My advice is to try the technique with your child. If mind maps work for them it is a powerful and effective technique.
About Dr Rose
Dr Janet Rose is an international tutor who teaches English and History for The Tutor Team. See her profile here
Janet also manages The Tutor Team Facebook page, where you can get study tips, educational videos and posts every week.