Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mind mapping

I was first introduced to the technique of mind mapping during my English Language I class at Joaquín V. González. I had a wonderful teacher -María Alejandra Martínez- who was very inspiring in many ways: she was energetic, fun, she knew her stuff and spoke beautiful English! There’s an unimaginable amount of vocabulary to learn at Language I (phrasal verbs, adjectives for people, adjectives for places, false cognates and the infamous “ways of” speaking, walking, holding and others). So after each unit or so María Alejandra asked us to do what she called a “network”. Surprisingly enough, this was the first time I used this technique, as I had never been told about it in all those years studying English! I was fascinated! Finally something that worked for my learning style! For, you see, I have never been good at studying from “linear” summaries, I’ve always needed to “manipulate” the information, change the appearance, re-write, re-order, add drawings, etc.

Basically, a mind map is a diagram used to represent words or ideas connected to a central and more prominent key word or idea. The words are generally arranged according to their importance in relation to the main concept and are organized in groups, branches or bubbles.  Actually, it is a tool for your students to study from, so I guess any design is valid as long as it works for them! Lots of examples (mainly business-related) here:

I often ask my students to make mind maps and most of them find it really engaging and helpful to remember new vocabulary. Personally, I love hand-made ones, but I’ve noticed that many of my adult students (especially Business English students) enjoy making their maps using on-line resources. There are many websites offering mind mapping software (in most of them you can download a free trial version); here are just a few:

If you work with adults:

You can choose from quite a few different designs (bubbles, brainstorming diagrams, flowcharts, etc.) and it’s easy to use because you start working from a template. You have to download the software (free trial version available).

I think this is one of the most popular. You have a tutorial online and you can download a free trial version.
Business oriented. Free trial version available.

You can find very good templates here, some of them with great teacher notes and ideas. But you have to print them out and complete them yourself (I mean, it’s not a software).

If you work with children:

Here you will find graphic organizers (not really mind maps) to work on stories, plots, comparisons and fun activities like crossword puzzles. Activities are carried out online.

Great for reading-comprehension.

Now, here’s a tool I absolutely love! It’s for us -teachers- to present vocabulary in a new, different way. You can make vocabulary posters, work on vocabulary frequency on texts, manipulate words so that students see a lexical item once and again, etc.

Wordle is a tool to generate word clouds from any text that you upload. It organizes words according to their prominence and frequency in the text. You can save your clouds to the gallery or print them out, but you can’t download them to your computer. Here's a cloud that I created with the words on this post. I printed it out and then scanned it:
With Tagxedo you can create word clouds with many different and funny shapes. You can print them or save them to your computer. Here’s the shape I made with the text on this post =)

Working with words is fun!


  1. I think mind maps are very useful. I usually draw them but I will try some of the softwares you suggest. Very interesting, thank you!

  2. I love the blog, very useful. Tks!