Brain Compatible Instructional Strategies with Thinking Maps™

According to one of my favorite websites, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that we use only 10% of our brains. “We use 100% of our brain!” (Neuroscience for Kids). Though Aristotle’s model of five senses is common, neuroscientists agree we have more than five. There is not a firm agreement on how many more but they range from nine to twenty-two senses.

In brain research, it is agreed, the largest percentage of what our brain processes is from visual stimuli. “40% percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina. 36,000 visual messages per hour may be registered by the eyes.” (Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching By Eric Jensen). Auditory stimuli is second. However, students miss up to 50% of the data when cognitive strategies are not fully or partially developed. (Building Learning Structures Inside the Head, Ruby Payne, Ph.D.)

The Tree Map below is a visual tool showing the concept that knowledge is stored in two forms – a linguistic form and an imagery form. The more teachers use both forms the better students are able to think about and recall knowledge.

E Classroom Practices for Metacognition and Recall Green

The following Tree Map can be created in large group as a scaffolding tool to introduce the concept of synonyms. It is noted in the Frame of Reference the vocabulary is from the story told by Miguel in the story, The Endless Story. Remind students Tree Maps are used to classify information into categories or groups, often according to common qualities. The subheadings and synonyms can be printed or hand written on card stock and laminated. Poster putty is a great adhesive for creating large group Thinking Maps with the words cards on dry erase boards, walls, or premade presentation boards. The process of creating the Tree Map together models the organization of information while giving students ownership of their learning and respect for different learning styles.

EE Tree Map Synonyms Vocab

Completed Synonym Tree Map using Vocabulary from Miguel’s story


E Tree Map Synonyms Vocab Student Template

Building the Tree Map after the story is told that helps students interface oral language and sight word vocabulary. Using a combination of words and pictures (silo, or no rain, corn) will support classroom students with mixed abilities.

Vocabulary for Synonym Tree Map Student Template 'The Endless Story' (Miguel's Story)

Vocabulary for student word or picture cards

This Tree Map can be created in small heterogeneous groups again after the story for teacher assessment of student understanding of concept of synonyms and process of building a Tree Map.

Building the Tree Map in small group allows students the opportunity to interact with each other, connect to their own prior knowledge of the vocabulary, work cooperatively with each other, practice verbal skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Recreating this Tree Map multiple times supports students in their evolving understanding and facilitate self-assessment of retention of synonyms, vocabulary and processes of constructing Tree Maps.

Remind students to write their names in the ‘frame’ reinforcing themselves as active learners in constructing knowledge and showing what they are thinking and know using Thinking Maps.

Thinking Maps are most often mid-range tools, students are able to show their work and teachers are able to see the thinking that supported final work. Completed student maps can be used as word banks for oral or written retelling of Miguel’s story.

Using the instructional strategies in the lessons for Classroom Storytelling with Thinking Maps includes high expectations from educators. These effective instructional frameworks lead students to their own awareness of their personal and academic success as life-long learners.

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