Mind Mapping with Historic Maps: Visualizing Information

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Mind mapping is an exercise designed to help students visualize information to recognize relationships among pieces of a whole. It is a way to break down concepts into its relative parts to improve literacy and understanding. Wikipedia gives a good summary and a couple of examples, including one for “Tennis”.

Mind maps are created around a central concept, drawn or written in the center of a blank page. Major related concepts or terms are then branched out from the central concept. Other concepts or terms are branched out from the major concepts, and so on until the simplest term is presented. Each branch can be done as different colors and include images, words, or parts of words to explain the concept.   

For this activity, your students will create a mind map using a historic map as the central concept. Choose a map from the Library of Congress map collections related to your class content, like a map of Denver or Colorado.

  1. Break students into groups of 3-5
  2. Place a map in the center of a blank poster paper. The map itself will be the central concept. 
  3. Make the initial three circled branches from the map: Observations, Reflections, Questions
  4. Give students different colors of pencils, pens, or markers
  5. Ask students to branch off from your branches with what they see, think, and wonder.
  6. Students can then create more branches from their own and so on.

Note: Give them enough time and instruction to create a worthwhile visual (10-30 minutes depending on their skill level)

This activity is a great way to integrate historical and geographic thinking to improve visual literacy.

Don’t want to use a map? Use a historical photograph or painting as the central concept instead. This is also a great activity to use to summarize books, themes, and complex or abstract concepts.

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