Thinking Through the Process-Using Thinking Maps to

Thinking Through the Process-Using
Thinking Maps to Write Effectively
GCEL Conference
Savannah, Georgia
February 24-26, 2014
Nancy T. Willis
Haralson County Middle School
Literacy Coach and Reading Support Teacher
Benefits of Thinking Maps
• Visual patterns from which a deeper level of comprehension evolves
as students organize their thinking. Especially good for students
having learning difficulties.
• Empowers students with tools to analyze complex texts or to think
mathematically for conceptual understanding-common core
• Students utilize Thinking Maps to organize their thoughts to produce
effective writing artifacts. Students are able to write based on their
blueprints. Takes away the fear of writing! 
Benefits continued
• In utilizing Thinking Maps in all content areas, teachers
are able to “speak” a common language that carries over
in all subjects.
• The needs of ALL LEARNERS are met using these
tools. Each map represents a different thought process.
• When students reflect their thinking on their map,
teachers are able to quickly determine their level of
understanding. Misconceptions can quickly be clarified
and remedied.
• Teachers design lessons based on student
Benefits for the Administration
• Thinking Maps promote integrated and
interdisciplinary learning.
• All members of the school community
share a Common Language for
meaningful and rigorous collaborative
learning and planning.
• Monitoring teacher effectiveness and
teacher quality is facilitated.
Writing Instruction Background In
Haralson County Schools
• Minimal writing/grammar instruction in primary
grades-Mostly concentrated on reading.
(Reading First)
• Elementary Schools-2007-54% fifth graders
(WHES) passed the Writing Assessment.
• Need for a System-Wide Program-Tried Step Up
to Writing-no consistency.
• Primary, Elementary, and Middle Schools
incorporate Thinking Maps now with success.
Writing Progression at HCMS
• 8th grade state Writing Assessment:
Prior to initiating Thinking Maps: 54% to
Under state direction: followed state
frameworks closely-More writing
performance tasks
More collaboration of lesson planningReview of student work samples
Year One of Thinking Maps
• Entire faculty trained-collaborated about how to use the
maps in all content areas.
• Roll-out of the Thinking Maps to all students in all
content areas. Content areas were assigned certain
• Follow-up training by Thinking Maps trainer-fine-tuned
classroom usage
• Tier 2 and 3 students report appreciating the structure
that Thinking Maps gave them.
• 8th grade writing assessment scores rose from 65% to
Additional Training
• All system academic coaches received trainingTraining of the Trainers-expository, persuasive,
narrative, and response to literature.
• Thinking Maps began being used in all gradesK-8.
• Effective initiative-Elementary schools showed
great gains! One school rose from the fifties to
the seventies. The other school didn’t show
much gain due to inconsistent usage of maps.
HCMS-Year 2 Implementation
• Academic Coach gave additional training to the entire faculty in
using Thinking Maps to produce effective writing. (Setting the Stage)
• Academic Coach gave additional training to ELA teachers in Using
Thinking Maps to produce effective writing in all genres. Manuals
were purchased in all genres.
• Gifted students reported not needing Thinking Maps to organize
their writing.( We had only had a minimal number of students to
exceed on the writing assessment, so????)
• Teachers were still telling students which maps to use and when.
Set a school goal of getting students to choose which ones they
• 8th grade writing assessment scores rose from 71% to 82%! Only 4
students exceeded.
HCMS-Year 3 Implementation
• 8th graders had 14 non-readers when they entered the middle school
in 6th grade. Many other students were below grade level by at least
2 years.
• HUGE push for promoting effective reading practice and progress
monitoring as well as developing writing skills.
• ELA scores in the CRCT were consistently below reading skills.
• Teachers continued requiring students to use Thinking Maps but
were still guiding them too much in what maps to use. Students
were able to verbalize what thought process they were using.
• 8th grade writing assessment scores dropped only 2 percentile
points to 79%. NO students exceeded on the assessment.
• School focus for 2013-2014: Push for exceeding scores and
students use any Thinking Map they feel needed.
HCMS-4th Year of Implementation
“Taking it off the map” has been a big push.
More writing performance tasks
Individual and small group writing instruction
Support classes using more Thinking Maps for writing
• More writing in LBI.
• Whole faculty training in expository and informational
• Waiting on writing assessment scores.
HCMS Initiatives to Enhance
Thinking Map Usage
• Reflection on lesson plans
• Collaborative planning-grade level and
• Literacy Block Initiative
• Contests showcasing student work
Next Steps for HCMS
• More vertical planning for grades K-8
• Encourage students to combine maps
and/or modify maps to better organize
their reflections/notes
• Vertical planning with high school teachers
to become informed of weaknesses that
are still present.
• Ongoing training in all content areas for all