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Mind Maps in Action: Teaching Students the Art of Mapping

In this "Mind Maps in Action" article, we talk to teacher and mind mapping advocate Daniel Weinstein about his experiences of teaching students the art of mind mapping.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Daniel Weinstein. I teach English 11, AP Language, and Creative Writing at Great Neck South High School on Long Island. I love to share my ideas for teaching creativity - through my book, my website, and my personal appearances. In the end of Nov. I am doing a presentation on "Mind Maps and Other Language Art" at the National Council of English Teachers national conference in Washington DC. It's my second year in a row doing a presentation on mind maps in education!

When and how were you first introduced to mind maps?

I was first introduced to mind maps in the summer of 2001. I was taking classes at "The Leadership Academy" at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts - this program is designed to get teachers accredited to become administrators. I noticed a woman next to me kept taking notes in class using magic markers, creating webs. I was fascinated. Her name was Anne and she taught me the basics and suggested I buy Tony Buzan's books. I started to borrow her markers and make my own mind maps for class notes and I immediately was transformed: I was taking better notes! I was re-reading my notes again and again. I was adding drawings and new ideas to my notes all the time. I've always been a mediocre student, but the combination of magic markers and mind-mapping unlocked a superior student in me. I promised myself that I would teach every student I ever have about this amazing art form - and I have!

How do you now use mind maps in your personal and professional life?

The greatest benefit of mind-mapping is that it can be used by any student for almost any reason. I've seen everyone from the Harvard-bound to the Learning disabled to the English-As-A-Second-Language student enjoy mind mapping and access it's therapeutic and educational benefits. It is so amazing how flexible it is, too. I use it to plan lessons, distribute notes, and brainstorm ideas with a class. My students use it for a plethora of reasons: organizing notes, planning an essay, brainstorming goals, reflecting on memories, dissecting literature, and so much more.

How do your students tend to respond when introduced to mind maps for the first time?

I first taught mind-mapping twelve years ago, and it immediately took hold with my students. Through Facebook, I'm still in contact with many of those kids and they STILL acknowledge that mind mapping was a vital tool they learned, used through college, and employ in their careers. During these dozen years I have taught mind-mapping to EVERY student who has come through my classroom, regardless of the course title. I'd say 99% have had a positive experience with it and found it to be a unique and valuable educational experience with it.

Do you think there is scope for greater adoption of mapping in the education sector and, if so, how can we encourage it?

I encourage every teacher I meet to utilize mind maps in their classroom. I have spread the word through my book (The Creativity Core) and website ( I have presented my students' mind maps at several conferences and classes. Next week I'm doing a one-hour presentation for teachers in my district on Election Day (Superintendent's Conference Day). I feel compelled to encourage educators to use this amazing technique because I know it helps all students, inspires creativity, and turns even the dullest classes into an interesting experience. I think I would have been a better student throughout high school and college if I had known about the transformative powers of mind-mapping and taking colorful notes.

Would you like to add anything else?

It is important to note that mind-mapping is one aspect of the bigger picture: teaching creativity. My workshop method is a product of studying with the National Writing Project and reading Nancy Atwell's seminal book, In The Middle -- these two influences showed me how to run a classroom so it is hands-on, enjoyable, and intensely educational. Integrating mind-mapping into the workshop is my special twist on this classroom method. My students write and create art (memoir, poetry, mind maps, and more) all year long, meeting the "goals & deadlines" I set for them. The experience culminates in a portfolio due in June. These portfolios are chock full of amazing "authentic" art, including 15-20 mind maps created by each student.

This blog entry includes four short videos of students talking about their mind maps:

A huge thank you to Daniel for sharing his story with us! You can see a whole host of terrific hand-drawn mind maps by Daniel's students on his website, by clicking here. Do you have a "Mind Maps in Action" story you'd like to share with us? Get in touch by commenting below or via Twitter.

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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