I use Thinking Maps in my classroom all the time. A circle map is a kind of Thinking Map. Thinking Maps were created by Dr. David Hyerle. There are only eight maps to memorize and the maps are supposed to be used as a common visual tool. Dr. Hyerle wanted these maps to support creativity, analytical thinking, and conceptual understanding in the classroom. For more information on Dr. Hyerle and Thinking Maps click here.
A circle map is always used to have students brainstorm. One of the reasons I love using thinking maps so much is that eventually my first graders can just draw a circle map on their own (later in the year) in order to brainstorm. I am including a template with this lesson because we know students have spatial issues at the beginning of the year, but your students could certainly draw one on their own later in the year.
I am setting my students up for success because we are going to use this map all the time. When we need to respond to text and answer text dependent questions we will need to brainstorm what we will write first. We are also going to be using the circle map when we brainstorm ideas in our writing units. It is always important to plan before you write and the circle map will help us. So, it's vital that my students learn how to use this map. One thing you need to remember when teaching the different maps is to have students deal with content that they are already familiar with. It would be an absolute nightmare to teach the map along with teaching new, rigorous content. Remember, the goal of this lesson is only to teach the students how to use the map. In later lessons, we introduce rigorous content. So what do children already know well that they can brainstorm ideas about? Themselves of course! This is also what makes this lesson a great one to do at the beginning of the year when students are getting to know each other and you're working on establishing your classroom culture.
For this lesson you will want to project the circle map from this Smartboard Introducing Thinking Maps or Activboard Introducing Thinking Maps lesson depending on which kind of board you have. You will also want to make enough copies of a blank circle map Student Copy Circle Map for each of your students ahead of time. Then you'll be ready to go.
I brought my students to the carpet and had the circle map was displayed on our Activboard. I asked my students, "Do you think when authors start a book that they just start writing or do you think they take the time to come up with some ideas first?" Students were divided on this question. Some thought writers just started writing. Others thought writers brainstormed first. Student answers gave me an idea of what I needed to hone in on in terms of instruction. I needed to teach my students that before you write, you have to plan.
I said, "Well boys and girls we are going to learn something new today. Actually, you should actually plan before you write. We are going to learn a Thinking Map today called a Circle Map. We are going to use Circle Maps a lot this year when we answer questions about the stories we read and when we brainstorm ideas before we start writing. You're going to get to make your own Circle Map today. Who's ready to learn about a Circle Map now?"
I started off by saying "Since we are first learning how to use the circle map, I am going to write down some ideas about something I already know about - me!" I am going to write my name in the small circle in the middle because that's who I'm writing my ideas about."
I modeled 3 things about what I look like on the map. When you model this for your students you can use words and drawings. I wrote, "Mrs. Gresser" in the small circle in the middle. I said, " We always write the thing we are brainstorming about in the small circle in the middle." Then I said, "Now I'm going to brainstorm some ideas about myself that I want everybody to know. I am going to write and draw these ideas in the larger outside circle. I am going to write 3 things about what I look like and how old I am. " I will record as I say my ideas out loud. I am 39 years old. I have blonde hair. I wear glasses."
Then I modeled three things that I like to eat. As I was recording these ideas I said, " My three favorite foods are pizza, spaghetti, and chocolate ice cream."
Then I modeled three of my favorite activities. As I was recording I said, " I like to read, sing, and spend time with my family."
You could change the categories to anything you want to do - brainstorm anything that the students could easily write about. And let's face it - kids love to hear about you and talk about themselves so whatever you pick they'll love it. You can get a better idea of how our Circle Maps came out by looking at our student work in the closure section of this lesson.
In this section we combine the guided with the independent practice. It wouldn't make sense to just give a circle map to students and expect them to remember everything you just modeled. The student's working memories just aren't big enough.
I distributed the individual circle maps to each of my students. I had them put their names and the date on their papers. Then I said, "Put your name in the small center circle. This is who we are writing about." After students have done so I said, "Now write down 3 things that describe how old you are and what you look like in the big outer circle." I referred back to what I had already done. I gave my students 5 -7 minutes to do this. I walked around the room checking to see if anyone was stuck but my students all had ideas that they wanted to write about.
After students are done recording I said, "Now write down 3 things that you like to eat in the large outer circle". Again, I referred back to what I had already done. I gave students another 5-7 minutes to do this. I walked around the room again, keeping students on track because they were so enjoying what they were doing and talking about it but I had to get them back on track and write about it.
After students are done recording, I said, "Now write down 3 things that are your favorite activities. Write these down in the large outer circle."The students were given time to complete their maps as I continued to walk around the room, offering them praise and asking questions about their maps. I did this lesson at the beginning of the year so it was a great way for me to get to know my students even better and know their likes and dislikes.
I collected the papers and used this as a form of assessment about their basic writing skills. It's important to use formative assessment in my classroom - especially at the beginning of the year -because, as the teacher, I can identify students' strengths and weaknesses. What I saw is that some students preferred to draw instead of write words. This gave me an idea of what to work on with some students in our small group reading lessons. I also saw that all the students understood how to use the map and mastered the task. They were all experts on themselves and the map was a tool to communicate their ideas effectively. Plus - it was fun!
My students were really motivated to make a Circle Map. To close the lesson I said, "Why do we use a Circle Map? That's right we use it to brainstorm. We are going to use these a lot this year and now that you know how to use a Circle Map you can't tell me that you don't know what to write." I know that this lesson focused on learning how to use the map, but after I asked those questions I gave students time to circulate around the room and share their maps with each other. Since I did this lesson at the beginning of the year, it was a great way for students to get to know each other as we built our classroom community.
I interviewed a few of my students about their maps. You can see what they had to say on the video here Circle Map Student Video. You can see their enthusiasm when sharing their ideas and I hope your students will be just as enthusiastic as well.
If you enjoyed this lesson and are planning to use circle maps again, I've included a video How to Save and Modify the Maps for you on how to save this circle map template to resource folders in either your Smartboard or Activboard software. This way you don't have to keep drawing circle maps over and over, you'll have it all ready to go when designing new lessons.