Teacher Toolbox
Learning Strategies - Problem Solving

pencilsUsing Visual Maps

The purpose of using visual mapping techniques is to help students generate, organize, and expand their thoughts. Maps provide a visual representation of their thought processes. Mapping exercises can be used across academic domains and can be used with a variety of age groups.

Examples of common visual mapping categories used in classrooms:

  • Brainstorming maps can be used to help students connect to prior knowledge and to generate ideas about a topic.
  • Organizing maps guide students to classify and to think about the relevance and order of the information depending on a topic or class.
  • Processing maps help students to think how related topics or pieces of information interact with each other and help them think about the possible outcomes. 

When using visual maps, it is important to:

  1. Help students determine the type of thinking they need to do to solve a problem and teach them to select an appropriate tool to demonstrate their thinking.   For example, if they are beginning to research on a topic, it may beneficial for a student to construct a brainstorming bubble.  This may assist to structure their thinking on a topic and to connect to prior knowledge.

  2. Gradually introduce mapping techniques, starting with one type of map at a time.  Once students feel comfortable using a type of map across subjects, then introduce a new kind.  Gradually increase usage and complexity.

  3. After the student has mastered the concept of visual maps, have them make their own forms from scratch
    At first, students may need to be given a sheet showing the structure of the type of map and may begin to use the mapping technique by filling in the circles or frame. But, since the purpose of the visual maps is to help students generate and organize their thoughts, it is important to use the original frame minimally and encourage students to create visual maps independently to visually demonstrate their thinking.

  4. Not all students use the same types of maps well.  Encourage students to use the type of mapping technique that they are comfortable using and that supports their learning.

  5. Provide students with many opportunities to transfer their information to solve a variety of problems.