Literacy strategies - the journey continues

So far this year we have discussed the following literacy strategies: (Click on each to be taken to the presentation if you need to refresh your memory)

Magnet Summaries

Vocabulary Strategies (for Tier 2 and Tier 3 words)

Questioning Strategies (Using QFT)

Using NewsELA to teach CCSS ELA strategies


Improve instructional practices (pedagogy) to engage students in and challenge students with authentic, and rigorous learning for transfer.

Our next strategy: Concept Mapping

Concept mapping can be considered a literacy strategy that can be used in a variety of ways - before, during, or after reading.  Concept mapping helps students become literate by helping:

Many of you are probably already familiar with concept mapping.  If you’re not familiar with it, below is an example of one:

Note that there are really two parts to a concept map: the terms or concepts in the bubbles, and the words that label the lines between the bubbles (called “connectors.”)  Connector labels are just as important as the words in the bubbles, because that reveals to an instructor what the student was thinking when they made that connection.

Many of textbooks contain worksheets that have concept maps for students to fill in.  The main issue with these worksheets is that they often take the meaning-making aspect out of it for students.  The bubbles on the concept map usually become worksheet “blanks” for them to fill in the textbook-determined right answers.  

The point of concept mapping is to have students make THEIR OWN meaning, and students can’t do that if they’re being made to repeat what the text says the meaning should be.  If we want our students to be thinkers, we can’t take the thinking out of activities. Also, the concept maps that textbooks create are often limited in scope, not asking students to make connections between concepts learned in previous sections, chapters, or units.

So how do you “do” concept mapping with students to make sure students are doing the thinking they need?  Well, below are a few ideas for you:

Concept Mapping Ideas:

1) Do a pre-assessment concept map using critical Tier 2 or Tier 3 vocabulary words that you will be teaching in an upcoming unit/series of lessons..  Have students look up the words on their own and make preliminary connections before you teach about a topic or concept.  Then, while you’re teaching or they are reading, have students revise their concept map on a regular basis to update their connections as their understanding changes.

2) Suppose you’re having your students read an informational text passage that contains a lot of Tier 3 words.  Have students look up the words before reading, and then, while reading, have them create a concept map that shows the connections between the words - and you can have them concept map the textual evidence for their connections as well.  

3) Use concept maps as an end-of-week formative assessment that sees how well students are understanding (not just memorizing) concepts taught during the week.

4) Replace a traditional assessment at the end of a unit with a concept map, with students also writing a summary of their connections as well (because is students can write it - they own it).

5) Use concept maps to teach major text structures seen in your subject area’s readings: compare/contrast, order/sequence, cause/effect, and problem/solution.

6) Use concept maps while having students research a topic.

Enough yammering...let’s practice making concept maps!

I. For any unit, lesson, or topic you teach - either upcoming or one you want to revise for next year - fill in the table below.


Standard: (Number and text of standard)

Objectives (I can statements):

Explanation of how concept map will be used: (See examples on previous page if you need ideas)

II. Digitizing Concept Maps

Having students generate their own concept maps on paper is a great way for them to get started with concept mapping.  However, students need to practice their digital skills as well.  

Choose an online concept mapping tool from the list below and click the link.  Then, create a model concept map for the unit/lesson/topic that you wrote about in your table above.  This isn’t a model you’d necessarily share with students (otherwise the activity tends to become a recipe), but one that you would use to see the possibilities that students could take with their concept maps.

When you’re finished, take a screenshot of your concept map and insert it into this document below the list of concept mappers.

Connected Mind






Insert screenshot of concept map on the next page: