A few years ago, I completed a certificate as part of my master's degree with Johns Hopkins called "Mind, Brain, and Teaching." The program was developed from the book The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model by Mariale Hardiman. Among the 6 "targets" is creating an optimum physical classroom learning environment and evaluating learning. This book is a series of practical, research-based steps to support teachers of students of all ages.
I often was so eager to jump into each lesson that I forgot to take the time to outline our goals and provide a visual map of an upcoming unit. Later, I added this crucial component at the start of each unit and referred back to it throughout. I noticed a substantial difference in the retention of the content and overall engagement compared to years before.
In any form, a concept map provides students (and you, the teacher) with a guide. It is just that, a map. A jigsaw puzzle is nothing without its picture on the box, just like a unit without a concept map (Hardiman, p. 80). It's the thing that explains the why behind the unit. Why is it important? What will students gain? How does one unit connect to other skills and concepts covered? Sometimes, you "get it," but sharing a visual roadmap with your students and team teachers is essential.
Project-based learning must include a concept map. If you need help launching a project from a unit, a concept map could be your go-to when planning. Think about it as a chance to outline concepts and skills: "You need to know _ so that you can _." You'd be surprised how much this can spark inspiration for students.
Types of concept maps/graphic organizers:
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