What are mind maps and why are they good for your child?
There are a number of learning methods and techniques that allow students to adopt large amounts of information as efficiently as possible, master specific areas faster, summarize lessons they’ve covered, or quickly prepare for a test, and mind maps are among the most efficient among them.
What are mind maps?
Mind maps are an extremely simple and efficient way to memorize and organize large amounts of information in a person’s brain. Using colors, letters, symbols and lines, different interrelated concepts are arranged around the central concept in a visually striking and logically coherent diagram.
In fact, mind maps look like a tree where the trunk is the central concept from which other, associated concepts branch out.
This technique is so successful, because it resembles the way our brain works. First of all, the human brain likes images. In addition, according to the split-brain theory, the left hemisphere of the brain controls logical thinking, analysis and details, whereas the right hemisphere controls creativity, imagination and creates associative connections. Mind maps are efficient precisely because they equally stimulate both brain hemispheres, which results in the emergence of long-term memories.
There are several types of mind maps: some make use of images, others use symbols, words, however; the thing they all have in common is:
- organizational structure extending from the center outwards.
Simply speaking: mind maps enable spatial comprehension of long and linear amounts of information which is thus transformed into colorful, easy-to-remember and organized diagrams that work in the same way as the human brain. This is why they can be easily adapted to suit all students.
Mind maps can be used for a variety of purposes:
- for generating, visualizing, structuring and classifying ideas;
- for taking notes and summarizing;
- for brainstorming;
- for studying;
- for decision making;
- for problem solving.
When did their popularization begin?
Although it is believed that this form of organizing information has been present since antiquity, mind maps were made popular by British psychologist and TV personality Toni Buzan in the BBC show Use Your Head and his books. Buzan’s concept was based on the organization of information in a tree-like diagram, using colors and capital letters.
Buzan opposed the traditional way of presenting information, left-to-right, and top-to-bottom, arguing that readers actually scan pages in a non-linear way. This means that mind maps are particularly suitable for the digital age. Namely, experts have established that when reading text on the screen, the human eye scans the page in a non-linear way. This is why mind maps are extremely applicable today, because modern generations largely consume educational and entertainment content in a digital format.
How can mind maps help your child learn?
Mind maps for children are colorful and legible diagrams that organize information hierarchically. This means that one look at this map gives the child an impression of how the parts function within a whole, and what connections exist between each of them.
So, thanks to mind maps, children simultaneously gain insight into the whole, and better understand its parts, as well as logical relations between them. This way, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of a specific area, which results in the emergence of long-term memories, because instead of rote learning large amounts of information, children are actually able to understand the concept based on which pieces of information are organized into a whole. Thanks to learning with understanding, as well as well-structured and colorful mind maps, children can remember the material covered for a long time.
Many people who use this technique stated that mind maps are easier to memorize, understand, and generate new ideas. These assertions are confirmed by research:
- 80% of students believe that this technique helps them understand the concepts and ideas related to natural sciences;
- implementation of this technique increases text memorization by 10%, unlike traditional learning techniques where the increase equals 6%;
- mind maps have been found to be more effective than plain reading, attending lectures, writing summaries, and even participating in class discussions.
Creating mind maps
Creating a mind map on any topic is actually very simple. It is helpful that you don’t even have to think in a logical sequence. Instead, you can simply note down ideas by encouraging the child to create pictorial associations on a given concept, and organize them afterwards.
However, if you want to help your child to create their own mind map, it is best to follow these steps:
- Identify the main topic and draw/write it down in the center of the paper;
- Think about and discuss topics that represent associations on the given concept, thus defining subtopics related to the central concept. Write down each of them by drawing lines that branch out from the center;
- To make the map as legible and useful as possible, use short phrases or even single words;
- Add a picture for each word, phrase/topic to help yourself memorize them and to make the map more colorful and memorable;
- Together with your child, think up of at least two items for each subtopic and draw branches toward them.
Creating mind maps is a form of learning
A fun fact about mind maps is that the process of their creation is equally important as the final result. Namely, while entering items into the map, students are simultaneously thinking about them and getting to know them so they could identify the exact place they occupy. This way, while they are creating a map, students are simultaneously acquiring and understanding information. And once the map is made, one look at it is enough to help them remember.
Remember: the more mind maps your child draws, the faster and easier the process will become. As soon as they learn new material, they will start thinking how to represent it on a mind map, thus improving their chances of memorizing and understanding the material.
In addition, nowadays we have a number of software solutions that allow children, their teachers and parents to create mind maps on any topic on their own. One of their biggest advantages is the fact that they can be easily shared with other students, and thus used in class discussion. Moreover, educational applications like these combine learning and play, thus motivating students to use them for longer periods of time, and more effectively.
Benefits of mind maps for primary school students
Using mind maps has numerous benefits for students:
- spatial comprehension of large quantities of information in a single map;
- faster adoption of the teaching material with regard to traditional forms of learning;
- encouraging creativity;
- mind maps are easily shared in electronic format for class discussions;
- they make taking notes and summarizing easier;
- they are a fun, motivating and creative process that students enjoy;
- they encourage students to propose ideas and draw new concepts into the map.
What skills can students acquire by using mind maps?
Drawing mind maps is a constructive process that occupies students, thus allowing them to understand the material and activate a range of skills, from creative to logical ones.
Therefore, in addition to acquiring concrete knowledge with the help of mind maps, students also develop other skills important for professional success in the 21st century:
- PLANNING AND ORGANIZATION: Thanks to the clear and legible structure of mind maps, students can practice their idea structuring skills, as well as plan their organization;
- COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND TEAMWORK: The process of adding ideas to a mind map in the classroom is a group activity where each student offers their contribution by proposing and explaining ideas. This way, students develop communication skills, but also skills needed for teamwork.
- SKILLS OF ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS: Clear and legible visualization and connections between concepts on the map allow students to gain a deeper understanding of each concept, and their wider role. That way, they exercise their skills of analysis.
- CREATIVITY: The process of creating mind maps allows students to propose different ideas of their own, to think independently, and thanks to the understanding of concepts, to generate new approaches. That way, they acquire one of the most sought-after skills of today – creative thinking.
Effectiveness of mind maps in different school subjects
Thanks to their legibility and visual impact, mind maps for learning can be used in different school subjects: from languages, to natural sciences and humanities, even art.
This technique is a great teaching aid for students who struggle with certain subjects, or are afraid of them. Thanks to mind maps, students will succeed in mastering the material they had struggled with, and even have fun in the process. If your child has difficulties memorizing names of countries or capital cities, geography mind maps can help them to master this area more easily by associating a certain image or color with each city.
Also, many senior students struggle with chemistry, which is why chemistry mind maps are a great tool for helping students to experience abstract relationships between chemical elements in a tangible and comprehensible way. Math is another school subject that makes students jittery, especially those who have a penchant for art or the social sciences, but mathematics mind maps will help them to see this subject as creative and fun, to understand it better, and even fall in love with it.
Mind maps are also applicable in the humanities and art education, and especially effective in teaching languages.
Mind maps in foreign language teaching
Mind maps are an excellent method for learning foreign languages. For example, they are far more effective in the adoption of French words than traditional note-taking. Mind maps are an advanced learning method that will help your child to expand their vocabulary very quickly.
How do we create a mind map?
Easy: first, define a topic. For example, food. Enter the central concept: food, and then enter subtopics that branch out from the central concept: meals, desserts, meat, fruit, vegetables, drinks. Choose a few of the most important words associated with each subtopic. For example, meals: breakfast, dinner, supper, snack. Write each of these items in French and English.
Example of a mind map:
Why are mind maps so effective? Because they are visually striking and memorable, and because words are connected into wider concepts in a meaningful way, so children can easily find the word they need by their type, instead of leafing through a dictionary.
In addition to being effective in teaching a foreign language, mind maps can also be used when learning your native language. Thus, for example, mind maps for English can enliven and even turn grammar and spelling rules into fun.
If your child is learning about capital letters, mind maps can be extremely helpful even here. Create a simple mind map together, and your child will never again hesitate whether to write a capital letter or not.
Draw a mind map together where the central concept is: USING CAPITAL LETTERS. Draw branches that refer to the central concept in a meaningful way:
- proper names;
- initial word in a sentence;
- polite address.
You can draw the following branches from the proper names item: first names, surnames, nicknames, possessive adjectives derived from proper nouns, peoples and nationalities and their members; geographical names: names of countries, cities/towns/villages, continents, bodies of water, and landforms; historical events: wars, uprisings, riots, battles, fronts/theaters, revolutions, pacts, peace agreements; names of institutions, organizations, events; artworks, scientific and professional papers, journals, newspapers, laws, documents; awards and recognitions; objects: buildings, monuments, temples, halls, and roads.
Educational and fun
Mind maps are a great tool that can help your student to adopt the teaching material more efficiently and with understanding. They stimulate children’s creativity and logic, and their visual and digital potential (i.e. possibility of creating them on the computer) makes them a valuable teaching aid of the 21st century, because they are both educational and fun.