PLAs #9 – Mindmaps

by / Wednesday, 22 April 2020 / Published in Instruction, PLAs

Mindmaps are great for outlining content, brainstorming ideas, and making connections for many different concepts. Mindmaps can and should be colorful, reflecting the depth and complexity of linking ideas together. The process is simple:

  • Have learners draw a central image of the concept or topic to be explored. Words can be used, but drawing a concrete version of the topic helps to promote deeper thinking;
  • Each branch that comes off of the central topic should have its own color, for ease of seeing each of the different ideas inside of the map;
  • Each branch should also contain a single word (a very short phrase is acceptable but discouraged), that is a keyword to the thought associated with the branch. Most branches then have small branches, and it is worth varying the thickness of the branches as they connect. The smaller branches are usually examples that support the larger branches, or sub-categories to the larger topic up in the larger branches;
  • Mindmaps that are well done can become the basis of research projects or research papers;
  • A finished mindmap is a rich source of information about how deeply your learners are working inside of their topics, and gives you many opportunities for formative assessment and feedback.


Name: MindMaps

Activity type: Critical / Creative thinking

HOTS: A finished mindmap shows essential elements of applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating

Grouping: Best with ONES, but if you use it more often, try working in TRIOS for a little more reflective interaction.

Online tool: For online collaborative mindmaps, try Coggle. Nearpod’s “Draw-It!” tool, or any embedded whiteboard is a good start. I use Xmind, but that’s almost entirely laptop/desktop based.

This is the Top Ten Participatory Learning Activities (PLAs) Series. Each week, Dr. Larry Davies describes PLAs that are effective to use online. Your use of these PLAs will foster better learning and higher motivation in your learners. Each PLA contains an illustration that contains four elements:

  • The name of the activity.
  • Which one of the four types the activity is (that’s the lightbulb), including,
    • Creative/critical thinking activity (inside the lightbulb, top left – the brain);
    • Small group conversational activity (bottom left – the speech bubbles);
    • Exit activity (given at the end of a lesson, unit, or project) (top right – the exit sign);
    • Timed activity (where learners are under pressure to complete it within minutes) (bottom left – the clock).
  • Whether it’s a Higher or Lower Order Thinking Skills Activity (HOTS or LOTS) (the HOTS/LOTS lever with “the pail”).
  • A suggested grouping to maximize the benefit of the activity (the circles arranged in many ways).

Also, the description will contain suggestions for one or more online tools you can use with the PLA.

Previous blogs in this series include:

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