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My thoughts on Mind Maps & SQ3R as Classroom Tools (TESOL school assignment)

How would you apply this knowledge (Mind maps and SQ3R) to
help your students develop their language and study skills?
Mind mapping could be appropriate for all ages and proficiency levels. It is multi-modal,
allowing for various entry points of learners. For beginners and low-intermediate users, the
emphasis on images, colour and spatial structure supports the incorporation of new words.
Word lists benefit from the addition of association, location and imagination as per
mnemonics strategies. For more advanced students, mind mapping can be used for more
details note-taking as well as for vocabulary and grammar building. As the student
progresses, often the workload becomes more and more verbal-heavy in nature. Materials
are longer, denser and more integrative conceptually. Mind mapping works for a variety of
learning styles, including those who are visual and / or favour global learning.
SQ3R appears to be more appropriate for older students and those with higher proficiency
in English. It requires a fair amount of instruction to begin using it and appears to be most
useful for longer pieces of text. I can see it also being extremely helpful in preparing for
proficiency exams such as TOEFL and IELTS, which have reading comprehension
components. However, with modification, this technique could benefit younger / less
proficient students in a couple of in-class applications.
For advanced intermediate / advanced students, SQ3R and Mind Mapping could work
especially well together in tandem: MM provides structured, contextual note taking, while
SQ3R’s approach of active reading allows for deeper analysis of material.
What is particularly interesting about both of these techniques is how they move the
student into becoming an active learner, rather than a passive learner who relies on rote
memorisation. They become invested in their own discovery of new words. They follow
their curiosity. They engage with the material and develop ownership of their notes, which
might even become works of art. They discover connections among vocabulary words and
between grammar concepts. And additionally, they provide more interesting, less
threatening ways to accumulate new vocabulary and build connective skills.
Considerations such as learning styles, level and age, the time required and goals
regarding particular material certainly affect whether or not I would use either or both of
these study techniques for a particular exercise. Questions such as “Does the material
warrant using either of these techniques, or is this simply a series of exercises?” And,
“what is the temperament and motivation of the student?”, “Are there external pressures,
for example, attitudes expressed by their regular school teachers* and parents on how to
study, that will affect how quickly and completely they will adopt these new study
methods?” (*I teach at an after school school.) But overall, I find both of these techniques
to be very interesting and usable in the classroom and in my own studies. Learning how to
learn is a skill like every other, and can and should be taught. But like everything, each
student will come to it in their own manner.
Mind maps
Of the two study techniques presented, I gravitate more towards mind mapping. It can be
used almost immediately with any age and any level of student. How complex the map
becomes is entirely adaptable to the individual student and the task on hand. The ability to
integrate both verbal and visual elements its construction provides early engagement for
students with a wide variety of language skill levels and learning styles. The act of making
a mind map is very simple to demonstrate. It does not require a lot of explanation beyond
simply modelling it. As the age and level of the students increase, more complex
explanations can be included about how to use mind maps to reveal deeper structure and
context within the material.
Applications: Mind maps + younger / beginner ESL learners in the classroom
Inspired by my readings for this assignment, this past week I began integrating mind maps
into my lessons at my school, using a simple map as a warm up exercise at the beginning
of several of my classes. Inside a bubble I wrote a topic word, one that has been recently
taught such as “food” or “clothes”, and invited the student(s) up to the board to brainstorm
as many words as they could related to it. If they were stuck, I gave them prompts
including making silly drawings and pointing at objects. We then read the words out loud
and added more as they came up. As we read them, I gently corrected any spelling
mistakes. They seemed to like this warm up because, well… writing on the board is fun!
Plus, presented as a game, it was a low stakes activity. Also, the non-list formatting
removes the air of “memorization” from the task. I am curious to see how this will enhance
their integration of these new words, along with their spelling, into their working memories
and how it deepens their connections between words.
In the future I would like to further incorporate mind mapping by showing my students how
to use it to connect word families together, which they can then try in their own notebooks.
We could start with the centre topic of, for example, “weekend activities”. I would prompt
them to name subcategories such as “at home”, “around the city”, “ out in nature”, “play
time”, “travel”. Then, by relating this activity to the map we created on the board during the
warm up, ask them to find vocabulary for each of the subcategories. I would then
encourage them to identify connections between words, such as those words related to
eating, those that you do with friends or with family, etc. They could also create a spoke
that explores the grammar rules related to this set of words… for example, present simple
vs present continuous or words related to frequency. Alternatively, this new bubble could
become its own map based on the grammar topic that week.
Once they have seen mind maps with more than one level modelled in class and
understand the process of making them, I will ask them to create their own maps at home
based on whatever the current topic is we are studying. I will ask them to find vocabulary
in the materials from class as well as to brainstorm more from their own experience. I will
ask them to draw or collect pictures both to demonstrate each of the words, as well as to
create images for English words that they don’t know yet.
Applications: Mind maps + older / more advanced ESL learners in the classroom
As I become more comfortable working with this technique, I would like to introduce mind
maps to my intermediate and advanced students as a note taking technique and for
vocabulary building. Because we will better be able to talk through not only the process but
also the function of the maps, I hope to encourage these students to use mind mapping to
explore the way their brains prefer to structure and connect information. This customised
approach to studying could result in students being better able to integrate and faster
access new elements of the language and its usage as they come across it.
Personal applications of Mind maps
While researching this assignment, I realised I have already been using a form of mind
mapping in my other work as a songwriter, generating ideas through the associative
properties of the technique. In this creative capacity and in the arena of teaching, mind
maps could be very helpful when I am developing lesson plans. They could help me to
identify ways to structure the lesson: expanding on what is and isn’t within the scope of the
topic; identifying strategies to explain it (games, reading exercises, repetition, audio /
visual aids); noting resources required; outlining teaching steps; finding real life relevancy;
as well as addressing different learning styles when presenting the material.
I have also already begun integrating mind maps into my Ontesol studying habits. In fact,
for this particular assignment I generated two mind maps - one for taking notes on the
various articles I read in preparation and a second to generate ideas for this essay
(attached.) I am also trying out mind maps in my own German studies to see if it helps me
with retention of new vocabulary and grammar points. Traditional word lists don’t really
work for me, and I am curious if I will have better luck recalling things I learn using this
I am less familiar with this technique and so the following thoughts are more imagining and
less real world observations. After reading the article in our course work and doing
additional research about it, I can see how SQ3R could be an effective technique. Perhaps
one of the key benefits of this technique is that, like mind mapping, SQ3R slows the
student down and at the same time engages their brain in active reading, listening and
learning. The Survey stage creates an overall context within which new ideas can be
placed. The Question stage prepares the brain for active reading and full engagement with
the material. The 3 R stages: Reading, Recalling and Reviewing bring the material back to
the mind’s forefront several times, and in a variety of modes from reading to discussion,
which lets the information really soak into our memories.
In order to use SQ3R successfully as an independent study tool, the student will need
enough facility in English to understand what the various steps are and how to implement
them. For that reason, SQ3R appears to be more relevant for older, more proficient
students. It also requires the ability to identify context across the material and to be able to
formulate questions from the text. My impression of SQ3R based on some of the articles I
have read, is that it seems to be better suited for denser texts such as textbooks and
research materials. As a study technique, it significantly improves comprehension and fact
retention when dealing with longer more complex material.
I want to highlight one interesting discovery that I found while exploring this technique, and
something that can be implemented independently of all the other stages: the importance
of the question formulation stage. Its effectiveness seems to be that by asking questions in
advance of approaching new material, the student’s mind becomes prepared and has a
place to put new information that they discovers. Even if the questions are only a reforming of, for example, the titles of the chapter and subheadings, they have the effect of
engaging the mind much more actively than by simply reading the them as statements.
Applications: SQ3R + younger / beginner ESL learners in the classroom
However, by making some adaptations to the SQ3R technique I can see a couple of
applications that could work well in my classrooms of primarily younger and/or less
advanced learners. Even though most of the students that I teach are quite limited in their
command of English and as such are faced with at most three paragraphs of English at a
time, they can learn to mine for context the title, the images on the page as well as any
side bars that highlight important grammar or vocabulary. This Survey stage could also
include the pre-teaching of any new vocabulary and identifying names and places that will
come up in the text.
During the Question stage, students can start with questions that are often provided in the
course book. They can also learn to form their own questions, such as “what is this story
about?”, “who are the people in the story?”, “where does this story take place?” and “what
does this word mean?”.
A second application of SQ3R I can see in my classroom applies to listening exercises.
Before playing an audio piece to my student, I would tell them what the topic is. I would
then ask them to guess what the audio might be about and what kind of words might come
up in it. I would encourage them to formulate questions such as “who are the speakers?”,
“how do they know each other?”, “what are they talking about?” Listening would replacing
the reading stage. I would ask comprehension questions as the recall stage. If there is a
written script, the student would follow along while listening again during the review stage,
Applications: SQ3R + older / more advanced ESL learners in the classroom
For my (one or two) more advanced students, the context and questions generated during
the Survey and Question stages may be enough to help them guess meanings of
unfamiliar words when encountered in the reading stage. The students can use their
previous knowledge of similar words to try to learn their meaning within the context of the
text. If they can’t figure it out in this stage, they can use the reading stage to highlight
these unfamiliar words as well as note any important concepts that come up.
If the student is still unsure of the meaning of a word after reading the text, they can either
look them up in a dictionary or bring them to class so that we can discuss them together
while recalling and reviewing.
By preconditioning themselves with context, questions and pre-identifying unknown words,
when they do the actual deep reading part, they are more likely to get a better
understanding out of the content. Additionally, by recalling the text through discussion and
explanation, such as a short oral report, they will have the opportunity to use the new
vocabulary as well as solidify other vocabulary that they already know, bringing these
words into more active use.
Personal applications of SQ3R
While I haven’t yet explored the full potential of SQ3R in my studies, I have begun
surveying and asking questions when approaching my reading of articles in this course. I
had a look forward to those talking about learning styles vs multiple intelligences. By
slowing down, surveying and asking questions about what I was reading, I have already
noticed that I was able to take in more information than I usually do when confronted with
texts that are filled with names and citations.
While I’m sure there is an application for SQ3R in the grammar module, I imagine that it
will become even more helpful in the third section, as I begin to engage with longer, more
dense texts about teaching theory. I am quite sure this technique in combination with mind
mapping will be helpful for me in my tendency to gloss over facts such as numbers and
names of people and places. I am excited to think that by re-forming the reading
experience as a series of questions to consider, and with the next step of synthesising and
explaining the information that I will have more success digesting the materials in this
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