The Teachers’ Guide to Mind Mapping

Note: Uses and benefits mentioned in this post are partially based on ideas from Anthony Valentin, a World History teacher at New York City’s famed Stuyvesant High School. Like many other teachers from all around the world, Anthony already uses MindMeister in the classroom to engage and inspire his students.

Mind mapping is an extremely versatile tool that can be used both by teachers and students to improve collaboration in the classroom and raise student achievement. In this article we’ve put together a number of great use cases for teachers. If you’re a student looking for ideas on how to use mind maps to improve your study efforts, you can check out our Students’ guide to mind mapping or read this incredibly informative report by university student Andy O. about how mind maps helped her get through uni.

Teaching with mind maps

Many of the examples listed below work with both digital and paper mind maps. For some others, an online mind mapping solution, which allows collaboration between users, is recommended.

1. Curriculum overview / lesson plan

At the beginning of the semester, prepare a lesson plan where you outline an overview of all the topics and subtopics you are planning to cover. Add exam dates and learning goals and attach work sheets. Share this map with your students, so they can use it as a guide during the semester and find out what they need to catch up on if they’ve missed a class.

2. Class projects

If you’re planning a project with your students, the first important step is to make sure everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do. Create a mind map for your students which provides them with all the information they need to successfully complete the project. Add a description of the assignment, provide deadlines, links to useful websites, examples and tips.

  • MeisterTip: If your students have editing rights for the map, they can add questions – as well as answers – to it when the need arises. Since everyone has access to the map, you won’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.

3. Presentations

Mind maps are a great tool to present complex concepts. Discussed topics can easily be located within the map. Their relation to other topics as well as the hierarchical structure are clear and can be seen at all times. Students automatically get a feeling for the “bigger picture” and it is easier for them to make sense of the received information and retain it.

  • MeisterTip: If your mind map is too big and complex to simply project it onto the screen as a whole, you can use MindMeister’s Presentation Mode to break it down into smaller chunks of data. You can then present those chunks on individual slides, while still communicating the “bigger picture” and other important properties of your mind map.

4. Topic and discussion templates

Create topic and discussion templates and circulate them to all of your students. These templates may either be filled in by students or used as a springboard to create their own maps.

5. Foster critical thinking

Elicit responses to questions posed after students watched a film or read a document. Other students can then edit and/or substitute their own commentary. The goal is to get students to critically think about sources and share their thoughts. Review the work in class by projecting the mind map on a screen.

6. Group assignments

Group assignments are supposed to encourage collaboration between students and enhance the result by collecting input from more than one person. In most cases, however, one student or two students will sacrifice themselves to do all the work, some others will at least try to give their input, and the rest will just goof off and play with their phones.

The use of a mind map can change that. Mind maps offer the possibility for multiple students to work on them at the same time. In contrast to a bullet point list or note sheet, everyone can easily add their own nodes and keywords wherever they see fit.

  • MeisterTip: MindMeister provides each user with their own color signature when collaborating on a map. If your students are working on a shared mind map, you can always check who really contributed to it afterwards, using MindMeister’s History View.

7. Oral exams and lesson reviews

If you want to test how much a student knows or understands about a certain topic, let them draw a mind map about it and explain it simultaneously. This will give you insight into your students’ thought process and show whether they’ve really grasped the fundamental concepts and their relations. At the same time, the act of drawing the mind map will put their brain into action. Instead of losing their threat and forgetting big chunks of information due to nervousness and stress, the mind map will help your students relax and enable their brains to retrieve information more easily.

8. Games, Quizzes and Questionnaires

The use of mind maps isn’t limited to brainstorming and project planning. You can use this versatile format for all kinds of games, quizzes and questionnaires. Click here to view an example of the popular “Find the matching pairs”, or check out this simple geography quiz.

Just get creative!

Useful links