Using Concept Maps to Plan Instruction

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  • 0:03 Concept Maps
  • 0:59 Themes & Units
  • 2:45 Sequencing Instruction
  • 3:21 Redundant Content
  • 3:57 Lesson Planning & Materials
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education. He has taught high school chemistry and physics for 14 years.

Half of a teacher's job is planning instruction. Planning instruction is a big job and spans long time frames. In this lesson, we'll explore a method to plan instruction called concept mapping, which helps plan instruction.

Concept Maps

Think about the planning process that is involved in sending humans to Mars. It is an overwhelming task that includes numerous facets that are critical to the success of the mission. Scientists and engineers might use a concept map to brainstorm, which involves gathering ideas on how to make the mission a success.

A concept map is a visual way to represent ideas and the flow of information. Educators don't have to worry about the level of planning required to go to Mars, but what they plan affects the lives of their students. Concept maps can be used to develop educational themes and interdisciplinary units, sequence instruction, eliminate redundant content, prepare lessons, and select appropriate instructional materials. Let's look at how we can use a concept map to plan effective instruction in all of these areas.

Themes & Units

Let's say your principal has charged you with designing a unit of math instruction to include three major curricular areas including science, history, and art. Let's work through the development of a concept map to aid in planning this unit. Our main topic will be volume. Let's start with the main topic and branch out from there as shown in Diagram 1.


Now it is time to start including the other curricular areas. This is when the brainstorming begins. It might be beneficial to get colleagues in all of the subjects involved in one room. If a big white board is available, it is a great way to make it visible for all to see, and is easy to modify. Utilizing concept maps is a process that might involve multiple revisions. Diagram 2 shows the next stage of the concept map.


The math teachers decide to add the volume equations for each shape as shown in Diagram 3.


Then, the history teacher adds a component to the pyrite section concerning how the Native Americans used pyrite. The science teacher then sees the connection between Earth and pyrite so he connects the two concepts with a red line. The art teacher adds the Louve pyramid. Thus, diagram 4 illustrates this.


You can see a relevant interdisciplinary theme developing, which is exactly what your principal wants! Content maps are not necessarily linear as there are connections vertically and horizontally. You can keep brainstorming to the point where you feel there is enough content. Now let's look at how we can use a concept map to sequence instruction based the main concept map we just developed.

Sequencing Instruction

Now that we have what we want to teach in regards to volume, we can plan the order of instruction. You can gather your colleagues to brainstorm or do it yourself. Diagram 5 shows how to start the concept map regarding sequencing instruction.


We can see from this concept map that we want to establish context and real world examples of each of the three shapes before we get into the math. Doing this provides the hook to keep students engaged and provides a mechanism for students to remember these shapes. The next concept involves redundant content.

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