This year my school began using Thinking Maps school-wide. Several of our elementary schools were using them and, as part of our school improvement plan, we wanted to implement school (and district) common organizers and vocabulary. The elementary school next door raved about them, did a mini presentation at the district office, and shared their experiences. My principal was sold, and I was intrigued. I volunteered for, and was sent to, a trainers-of-teachers training for several days of in-depth instruction on Thinking Maps.
What Are Thinking Maps?
According to their website, “Thinking Maps are consistent visual patterns linked directly to eight specific thought processes. By visualizing our thinking, we create concrete images of abstract thoughts. These patterns help all students reach higher levels of critical and creative thinking — essential components of 21st Century education. In a school-wide implementation, Thinking Maps establish a consistent Language for Learning.”
My View of the Maps
I would agree with this. While our school may still be working toward our goals of higher-level thinking for all kids, we have definitely made progress. We most definitely have a consistent language of learning and when we ask a kid to use a thinking map, they know what we’re talking about.
In Washington State History we have mostly used them for reading notes (looking for organizational patterns in the texts) and synthesis of learning.
For ELA we have used them for character analysis, cause and effect in our literature, analogies, and central idea with key details. We use them for our reading homework as part of a “menu” of options. The students read their choice reading book and can choose the thinking map that best represents their reading. We started out with two maps a week, but changed to a map and a paragraph written from the map. This change happened because of our desire to help the students move from the maps/notes/thinking, to writing ABOUT their thinking. Paragraph C.I. Tree Map
Another thing I love about the maps is the natural integration of citing evidence and showing thinking. The Thinking Maps include what is called the Frame of Reference where students include evidence, point of view/influence, and so what/so why conclusion statements. With the push to have students citing evidence along with explaining their thinking, these maps melded nicely into our plans for 7th grade.
Moving forward I want to integrate the Thinking Maps with writing more often and earlier. The maps are great, but they are not an end goal and we want our students to be able to express themselves well in writing. On the flip side, I also want to involve more directed discussion around the thinking maps. I read an interested blog mention from another blogger about using thinking maps for Literature Circles and textual close-reading/analysis. I think I will have to try it.
In my non-teacher consumed hours I love to spend time with my husband and son, play board games, sew/craft/quilt, and read (I DO teach ELA).I aspire to be more into fitness and outdoors more often, though I find a comfy chair and a good book/movie mightily appealing.