Mind maps are a pictorial way of putting ideas down on paper. They were developed in the late 1960s by Tony Buzan as a way of helping students make notes using only key words and images. They consist of a central word/concept/idea, around which various main ideas and related concepts are placed. Mind maps work well because they operate in the same way as the human mind, not in straight lines! The organisation of a mind map reflects the way the brain organises thoughts. When ideas are reduced to one or two words the brain must actively think about and process these ideas, in turn aiding memory.
Many classroom teachers already use mind maps with their students as an activity for brainstorming. However, it is also a great individual task for making an outline for a project, reviewing a classroom unit or generating ideas. Before mind maps can be used really effectively children need to be taught how to create them independently.
Since mind maps contain pictures and words, they are excellent activities for all children. Students who are non-writers can work alongside a gifted student. Mind maps increase creativity and the flow of new ideas. Children learn to organise information and learn about planning. Recalling and presenting ideas to others can be a much less daunting task when working from a colourful mind map than a sheet of writing.
Getting ideas down on paper can often be the most difficult part of a task for some children and those who struggle can easily drift off task and become distracted. However, when you draw a mind map you are constantly seeing, in your peripheral vision, what you have already done, whilst working on a new idea. This decreases the possibility of losing your train of thought as you are automatically reviewing the rest of your Mind Map. While a mind map provides structure when planning and can provide the basis for a writing task it can also be used as a stand alone piece of work. Mind maps are a perfectly acceptable way for a child to show evidence of their learning and is becoming even more accessible with the rapidly growing field of mind mapping software.
As well as being a fantastic tool for helping children who struggle to 'show what they know' they can be an art form in themselves! Check out these beautiful examples, some by children and others by adults that I came across on www.mindmapart.com....