Concept Mapping Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Concept maps can be great for helping students develop as thinkers and literate people. This lesson provides concept mapping activities that can be used in the classroom.

Why Teach Concept Mapping?

Have you ever struggled to get your students to understand something abstract? Perhaps your students are not delving as deeply into a reading as you wish they would, or maybe they are struggling to make connections among different science or social studies concepts. One thing you can do to help is teach your students about concept maps. A concept map is a graphic organizer of students' abstract thinking or knowledge about a particular topic. When students make concept maps, they access things they know or wonder about a topic from different sources and synthesize them to draw conclusions or move their thinking forward.

Teaching students to make concept maps and really use them well is not necessarily simple. This lesson offers you some concrete activities for using concept maps with students of different ages. Remember, the purpose of a concept map is not to create a 'cute' or appealing visual, but rather to deepen your students' thinking.

Concept Map Activities

Elementary School

Students in the elementary grades can benefit from making and using concept maps to help them understand their reading and process what they know about the world around them.

  • Concept Bulletin Board

Making a concept bulletin board can be great for science or social studies. If you are studying weather, write 'weather' on a large note card and affix it to the middle of the bulletin board. Then, use colored yarn to create lines extending out from the note card. Ask students to think of connections they make to weather, and write their ideas on smaller cards. For instance, a student might say 'hot' or 'rainy'.

Then, make a second layer to the map. Use a different color of yarn to create lines out from the cards you have added, and ask students to associate to their own terms. For instance, if a card says 'hot', students might add 'sweaty', 'sunny', or 'summer'.

As you move through your unit, draw students' attention to the bulletin board repeatedly and ask them add new ideas or information.

  • Concept Map Bookmark

One of the times that concept mapping can be especially helpful is in reading. Next time you read aloud a picture book to your students, consider drawing their attention to a major concept or theme in the text. Create a large replica of a bookmark on chart paper, and write the concept at the top of the bookmark. For instance, you might write 'community'.

As you read the book, ask students to pinpoint examples or ideas from the text that connect to the concept of community. Moving down the bookmark, write the page numbers that these connections happen on and a few notes describing the connections.

Then, give your students their own smaller bookmarks to use for concepts during independent reading. Make sure to leave time to debrief and let students share their findings with classmates.

Middle and High School

Older students are likely to be working with more complicated concepts, but they still benefit from activities that let them organize their thoughts and ideas graphically.

  • Interactive Concept Map

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