Mind-Mapping as a Teaching Tool

As I planned out the first unit on Scarcity for my Introduction to College Writing course, I realized that the text presented a unique challenge. It seemed to me that the authors’ extensive research and personal examples served to clarify the concepts while at the same time complicate the relationships between ideas. While reading Scarcity myself, I found that I needed to track how the central themes related specifically to the examples found in any particular chapter. This experience made me realize that I needed to find a better way to support my students in identifying the various concepts and how they related to the arguments presented in Scarcity. I decided that Mind-Mapping was the most appropriate tool for handling the complexities within the text. I spent two class periods teaching the basic concepts and methodology of Mind-Mapping; much to my chagrin, it seems to have marvelously affected the quality of my students’ first essay drafts.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Mind-Mapping, Brian Weller and Tony Buzan developed the concept in the 1970’s (for more information, see:http://www.tonybuzan.com/about/Mind-Mapping/). Essentially, Mind-Mapping is a methodology for linking written notes, pictures and colors to memory that is, according to research, more effective than traditional note-taking methods. The process of Mind-Mapping arranges info-graphics (combinations of words and images), picto-graphics (pictures that tell a particular story), and meaningful phrases, keywords and symbols organically on paper in order to capture ideas. Continue reading

Question of the day: What do you do during peer review?

Michael Laser and Tavya Jackson suggested that we feature questions about some general teaching situations on the blog, so that we can get input from varied quarters and discussion of some of our common classroom challenges.

To kick things off, here’s one from Michael:

“Today we did peer review of my classes’ 1st drafts. While the students read and commented on each others’ work, I occupied myself at the front of the room. Instinct told me that a great teacher would have been doing something different – engaging and helping somehow. But I didn’t want to intrude on their concentration and conversations.

Any thoughts? What do you do while they’re reading and taking notes on each others’ work?”

Please weigh in below.

Engendering Authority in the Classroom

Since most of us have made our way back into the classroom over the last three days, I thought I would start off a discussion about something that concerns many (most?) instructors, especially those who are new to the classroom (whether in general or to a new one in particular): the issue of authority and, especially, how one establishes it early in the semester with a new set of students.

A large part of the reason that I am considering this issue is because I just used my favorite ice-breaker in all four of my 105 courses, the one that I described in detail in a blog post a year ago: First day of class: Breaking the ice.

For those not interested in wading through it, the quick version is as follows: On the first day of class I show up early and sit among the students, causing them to think I am one too. Then, when it’s time to begin, I stand up and introduce myself, which invariably freaks out and thoroughly amuses the students.

Continue reading