Using Mindmaps to Revise

I’ve blogged before about using a concept map for revision and I suspect that most of what I have to say is not news for most teachers. However, I was putting together some resources for my classes and thought I might as well share them here too. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am spending more time on this than my students are.

Mind maps are good, but pupils can get hung up on the wrong bits. These are a few suggestions I give to help keep them on the right track.

  1. Start in the middle and leave lots of space – a concept map is never really finished.
  2. Basic principles or ‘headings start near the middle; work outwards towards the fine details.
  3. Colours don’t matter unless they add meaning. If red is used to mark ‘dangers’, or green for ‘examples’, great. Too often students reach for coloured pencils to avoid thinking.
  4. Bubble writing is a waste of time.

Just because it’s easy to give students mind maps doesn’t mean we should. Copying them, however, is pretty much a waste of time. So how can we make sure that what they produce is worthwhile?

  1. Give them the material (or some of it – differentitation opportunity!) on file cards and ask them to arrange them in a concept map.
  2. Ask each student to write three key ideas on a post-it and then have them make the concept map on a table. Introduce an extra step by having them start by making one in groups, either the whole topic or one part of it.
  3. Give each student or group a specific range of pages in the revision guide, or from their folders, as their source material. Tick (perhaps with a pencil) the notes as they are ‘translated’ into the concept map.
  4. Divide them into groups and have them reproduce a printed mindmap in short bursts – each team member has 20-30 seconds to look at the original, then 2 minutes to write down what they remember. The rest of the team can prompt and suggest but not write in that time. More able groups may be organised enough to each focus on a different branch. Alternatively, let them all look at the same time as see how far they can get together.
  5. Give them a mindmap  but photocopy it with blank areas. Can they fill in the gaps? Can they improve what’s there or add connections? They can use this as an audit to check what they are confident with and what they need to focus on. You could aso give students the main headings so they have some structure, perhaps witht he next link if you think they would benefit.

I think it’s very important to help the students realise how varied concept maps will be. Three people will produce very different maps, even if they have the same headings to start with. This is true for three able students, or even three teachers – it’s not about ability or knowledge but about how we show the links between concepts. Having members of the class compare their mind maps and give constructive feedback to each other can be very interesting – especially if you then have them add comments to the board, divided into ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’. They could be shared electronically through a VLE or mailing list, if you use them with your classes.

I’ve uploaded some printable mind maps below, for AQA Additional: P2.  This is the exam my students are (theoretically) preparing for. I produced them using MindMeister (exporting as gif files works better than pdf I’ve found) as I find this more useful for me; my students tend to prefer Bubbl.us which is really quick to use. I’d really welcome any suggestions or ideas for (free) software or weblinks as I feel both sites have weaknesses.

printable: p2 mindmaps as pdf

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