Most students struggle with the skills required for good note taking.  In my own experience as a high school Reading and Biology teacher, I always felt like students needed more when it came to putting ideas down on the page.  When I would project my notes onto my SMART Board, the students understood the headings subheadings and support.  However, when left to their own devices to take notes, my students would simply write sentences straight down the page, no heading or subheadings.  AND the students couldn’t figure out what was essential information and what was fluff.  They thought everything was important and wrote the entire textbook down on their papers.


Mind mapping can help students understand and document complex subjects in a nonlinear way.  A mind map looks like this:



Pinola for Lifehacker (2013)


The ideas and concepts flow easier in a mind map because a mind map mirrors our thinking more than traditional linear notes do.  As a student grapples with a complex piece of text, concept or idea, the student maps his or her flow of understanding.


I made a mind map on examtime, a FREE mind mapping website.  It is an awesome resource. My mind map outlined my thinking and reading on DNA.


As I was moving through the concept of DNA, which is pretty complex, I was able to allow myself to think in a nonlinear fashion but still identify important key concepts in a concise and effective way.


Because the Common Core State Standards expect students to grapple with complex text, concepts and thinking, a mind map is a tool that can help with this new way of teaching and learning.


Here is another example.  This is a Common Core State Standard for reading in History (9-10): CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims. A mind map for this type of task might look like this:




In this mind map students are hitting this Common Core Standard by not only understanding the author’s position on US involvement in the Vietnam war, but also by citing specific evidence from the text in specific areas of text.


If we give students a choice in how they take notes and how they understand, process and use information, we allow them to tap into all of their learning power and potential.  Students can even do this on their tablets, laptops and phones if they so desire.


Check out for mind mapping fun!

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