BackBright Hub EducationBrowse

Learning Mind Mapping With Elementary Students

By Margo Dill

Mind mapping can help students learn new material by connecting it to prior knowledge, exploring a topic, and brainstorming topics for writing. Learning mind mapping is easy; and once students understand the concept, they can use it on their own.

Teaching the Mind Mapping Process

The best way for learning mind mapping is for students to have a shared writing experience and/or mini-lessons about this graphic organizer. For example, you are teaching students a new science unit on plants. Before you start the unit, write "plants" in the middle of a piece of paper, and draw a circle around it. Explain to students that you are going to create a mind map about what they already know about plants. Then draw a line from the middle circle to another circle with the word "parts" inside. Next, students tell you the plant parts, and you write these in smaller circles connected to the "parts" circle.

After they list the parts they know, you can draw another line from the middle of the word web, and this time write "needs". As students tell you the needs of a plant, you write these down in smaller circles connected to the "needs" circle. Next ask students to think about anything they know about plants. Start a new section of your mind map on their ideas. Save this mind map; and as you progress through the unit, add more circles in the correct spots. Use a different colored marker when you add new information students learned.

Using Mind Maps

Mind maps, which can be made out of lines that look like tree branches as well as circles, can also be used when brainstorming topics for writing assignments. In a mini-lesson, you can show students learning mind mapping how to take a word like "love" or an event like "last day of school", and use a mind map to come up with a specific topic to write about. You would do this mini-lesson in a similar manner to the shared writing experience with the science unit mentioned above. Stress to students that when thinking of a writing topic - there's no right or wrong answer.

When you and your students have brainstormed different possibilities for a writing topic, then show students how to take that idea from the mind map and start an essay or story. For example, with the topic last day of school, students will perhaps write about feeling sick at a celebration picnic because they rode too many rides. Make sure students see that when learning mind mapping, they will usually start with a large topic, and break it into smaller subtopics, or a more specific event.


mind map by jean-louis zimmerman Once students have learned mind mapping, they can do activities such as:

  • Create online mind maps using free mind mapping tools.
  • Use mind mapping to come up with rewards for the whole class when everyone displays good behavior or for students to come up with a solution to a class problem.
  • Create word webs before writing descriptive pieces to brainstorm adjectives, adverbs, and action verbs that pertain to the object, person, or place.
  • Using mind mapping to review for social studies or science tests is also helpful. For example, if students are studying for a test on early explorers, they can use a mind map to remember where different explorers came from and what they did on their expeditions.

Final Thoughts

Remember, the important point to stress to students when they are learning mind mapping, or any brainstorming skills, is that they should write down anything that comes to them--let their minds be free to think. Every idea they write down does not have to be used, but each one is still worth sharing.