Using Concept Maps for Differentiated Instruction

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  • 0:04 Defining Concept Maps
  • 0:48 Why Use Concept Maps?
  • 1:21 Concept Maps And…
  • 2:36 Using A Concept Map
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers use many tools, including concept maps, to differentiate instruction so that all students succeed and learn. This lesson explains what concept maps are, why they should be used, and how to use them in a classroom setting.

Defining Concept Maps

When was the last time you were overwhelmed by new information? Maybe you were taking classes and a teacher presented new concepts in a challenging way, or maybe you attended a meeting and became confused and overwhelmed with information. A tool that would have helped you increase understanding is a concept map.

Concept maps are great organizational tools that help you understand new ideas. Used as a graphic organizer, the concept map puts concepts into categories and visual spaces that make them more easily identifiable and definable. Because using concept maps requires students to group and extend ideas, these tools encourage valuable questioning techniques. For example, a student studying insects may ask what type it is, what it looks like, and where it lives.

Why Use Concept Maps?

Why use concept maps? For starters, they're great tools to help all students, regardless of ability level, to organize information. The way a concept map is designed allows for the clear flow of information. No need to worry about facts getting buried in notes. They also help students see the connections between ideas, like the different places insects can live. They also naturally separate the main idea (insect homes) from details (such as trees or nests). Lastly, concept maps are a simple tool that can be adapted to almost any topic.

Concept Maps and Differentiation

Teachers can use concept maps to differentiate instruction in their classroom. When they use differentiation techniques, teachers modify teaching and content to meet all students' needs. Differentiation can be made in the content taught, process of learning, or the product a teacher expects. Concept maps differentiate the process of learning by helping all students organize content in ways that work best for them as learners. Teachers can further differentiate by using concept maps before and during learning.

Before learning, teachers can have students use concept maps to prepare for new learning by setting background knowledge. This helps them organize their current understanding of a topic, like kinds of insects, and sets the stage for future learning.

During learning, students can use concept maps to record their thinking in ways that make sense to them. Some students will draw pictures, others write words in list form. Students will also record content vocabulary words, like 'life cycle' or 'chrysalis.' Teachers may modify the number or type of words required, like 'bug' or 'insect.' Finally, students can organize concepts in relation to one another. They'll form offshoots for 'types of insects' naming specific kinds, then another offshoot that describes them.

Using a Concept Map

In addition to differentiating the use of concept maps before or during learning, teachers can also use them with any size group: whole, small, or individual. Teachers will need to scaffold learners depending on abilities when using concept maps. Some may need much guidance, while others are able to design their own easily.

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