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Elementary Science

Thinking Maps in Science

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 Dawn Nishimoto 3015 Points

I am looking at different ways to use thinking maps in science class. I have used circle maps, bubble/double bubble maps, flow charts, and tree maps in sixth grade to help students construct knowledge in various content areas. Now that I am working with lower grade, I'm wondering how I can use them in a K-2 classroom specifically in science. In sixth grades I would have the students draw the thinking maps on their own in order to "see" their thinking rather than students filling in a blank template. I found these to be good formative checks throughout a unit. I'm thinking for lower grade I may have to provide the thinking map (template) for the students to use. I'm planning on using the circle maps as a formative assessment on living and non living things (two separate circle maps)for a life and environmental science unit. I'm not sure if the students will be able to use a double bubble map to compare yet. Anyone else utilize thinking maps in the science classroom? Any ideas or suggestions on using thinking maps in lower grades? For more information on thinking maps:

Rena Roybal Rena Roybal 1810 Points

Our school complex emphasizes the use of Thinking Maps at all grade levels. As a Technology Coordinator I've used them in my lessons for grades 3-5. Some of the ways I've used this school year are a Double Bubble comparing Native and non-Native Hawaiian plants, Tree Map classifying Rocks and Simple Machines, Circle Map on Internet Safety, and a Flow Maps for Life Cycles. I always use a template because I'm confident the students can create these on their own since they are used in the regular classroom and I want them to spend time expressing their ideas and not creating the map. I do not use Thinking Maps in my lessons for grades K-2 primarily because I am focusing on other applications for these kids. I also think it's important for them to be grounded in how to use it on paper in their regular classrooms before they do it on the computer. It sounds like you have great uses for them in your lessons. Good luck!

Juliet Kim Juliet Kim 2340 Points

When I taught second grade students were required to learn about producers and consumers. You could have the students construct a tree map and have them sort pictures of producers and consumers. You could also use the tree map to have students sort between things that are in the night sky vs. things that are in the sky during the day. You could also challenge students with another branch on the tree map for things that are visible both at day and night. The great thing about Thinking Maps is that the possibilities with using them are truly endless. Using Thinking Maps, students could compare, sort, organize notes, take notes, and so much more. Good luck!

Rachel Nieto Rachel Nieto 530 Points

I currently teach my 2nd graders with thinking maps for science as well as the rest of their subjects. As a school the teachers are all using the maps so by the time they come up to second grade they are pretty familiar with them from K and 1st. I use a tree map to sort out different characteristics of different habitats and examples of states of matter. I use a flow map for the different animal and plant life cycles. I use the multi-flow map to discuss the possible effects of certain scenarios on food chains. There are ways that you could differentiate such as Juliet mentioned instead of having the students draw in or write their answers they could have pictures and sort them out that way. I find thinking maps very helpful to see what the students are thinking as well as helpful to the students to understand what is being taught.

Eve Nishikawa Eve Nishikawa 3190 Points

Right now I am in the beginning process of using thinking maps. So far I really like the idea and concept of them because they are better than just taking notes and it gives students a better visual of what you are trying to teach them. However I still need to familiarize myself with the different kinds and when to implement them. Currently I am a 4th grade math and science specialist. Are there any that you would all recommend? So far I have used a double bubble. I know there are many more out there but haven't quite figured out which topics should use which kind of map.

Edith Flores Edith Flores 1360 Points

Have you ever used the "Flee Map"? It is a combination of the Tree map and the Flow Map. Picture it like a clock. The first box would be at 12 o'clock. I always start with boxes at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. I have used this map for the phases of the Moon, the flow of blood through the heart, lungs, and body. Another way to use Thinking Maps with younger grades is to have pictures cut out and laminated. Have a poster of a map laminated as well. I recreated mine on a sheet of poster board. Next, if you want students to place things for a flow map, they simply place their picture in the right location. I used velcro dots on my pictures and poster board. Edie

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

If you broaden the scope of thinking maps to include graphic organizers, you might be interested in some of the NLC resources on this topic. I have a collection called
Concept Maps, Graphic Organizers and Visual Learning I hope you find it useful.
Carolyn :-)

Ricki Luster Ricki Luster 1400 Points

Some of your discussions brought back memories of when I worked with second graders. With the older students, now in grade 5, we do a lot of One Pagers, which can be done during the lesson or as an assessment. The students are given a specific criteria to follow for each One Pager, all of their information needs to be formatted on one page in whatever order they want to use. The end product looks great and the best part is, is that the proof of their learning is right on the one page. Ricki Luster

I love the idea of using thinking maps in Science. I've used the various thinking maps mentioned in other content areas such as the circle, bubble and tree maps. I've just started using Thinking Maps in my classroom and am considering using the Brace Map for whole to part breakdown in my science units. I teach third graders but think this will work well too in K-2. Some examples I've seen are: 1. Seed would be the whole and cotyledon, embryo, seed coat, and true leaf would be the parts. 2. Water Cycle would be the whole and evaporation, condensation, precipitation, accumulation would be the parts. 3. An Animal then parts of the Animals In the lower grades, students don't necessary need to write the words. They could draw pictures of the whole and parts then dictate the parts of the drawing to the teacher. I you google, science thinking maps elementary, there's a whole bunch of images from which you could get more ideas from. I think cognitive maps are wonderful tools for students. Once the students get used to using them, they will become more comfortable using a variety of maps to organize and track their thinking. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and resources.

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

Its funny how I came across this post as I am taking another class on thinking maps right now. In the fifth grade we need to learn about the different body systems and one way I found to organize all of them is with a tree diagram. You write yo body at the top and then break it down in the tree with the different body systems like digestive and respiratory. Next, under each body system you can have the students write down the different organs that make up that body system or even the functions of that body system. My students told me that making this thinking map really help them to understand the body systems as a whole as well as individually and it was a great study guide for there assessment on the topic.

Edith Flores Edith Flores 1360 Points

It is good to hear all of the ideas on the use oif Thinking Maps. Keep them coming. A new school year will be hear before you know it. We are always looking for fresh ways to use Thinking Maps and graphic organizers. Thanks to all who posted! Edie

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

I was just thinking about Concept Cartoons after reading through this forum. Does anybody use them? I think I am going to do some research on this topic. Kathy

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

When I was teaching grades K-4, I found that using concept maps really helped by students organize ideas and help them learn unfamiliar concepts. I used them with all 5 grade levels at varying degrees. For instance, the 4th graders had been doing concept maps for several years, so they were able to work on their maps independently with minimal guidance. For the kinders, the idea of concept maps was new, so I would model the process. I found that using pictures for the younger grades was very helpful. In addition to having the students draw pictures, I've used blackline pictures that the kids could color, laminated pictures, and magazine pictures. The magazine pictures work very well for concepts live living and non-living. For the upper grades, I also like to use semantic maps. Kathy, I like the idea of using concept cartoons. I have used The Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick for secondary level science classes. It's a fantastic resource that is full of fun cartoons that depict physics concepts. Do you have a cartoon concept resource for elementary students or do you have them make their own?

Carolyn, thanks so much for sharing your collection! What fantastic resources!!


Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

Adah, Thanks for sharing these links :-). I noticed they came out of the middle school journal. Are there any you would especially recommend to elementary school? Do you have suggestions how they might be modified to meet the needs of younger children? Thanks Kathy

Joseph Cerna Joseph Cerna 840 Points

We have used the Brace Map and the Tree Map a great deal in science. The use of aligning colors and integrating writing make the use of Thinking Maps even more effective.

Alayna Maldonado Alayna Maldonado 1750 Points

My school is currently putting more emphasis on Thinking Maps. I think they are so versatile and can definitely be used with younger students. I have my 3rd graders draw bubble maps, double bubble maps, and circle maps. I plan on rolling out the different Thinking Maps throughout the year as the need arises. I saw cute examples of younger students cutting out pictures to glue on their thinking maps instead of writing words. I like the idea of adding a “frame of reference” so that students have to think about if there “facts” are true before they just write anything down. To do this, students write down their sources or “how they know” outside of the thinking map. For example, they might write down that they got information from a movie we watched, an inquiry project, or from their textbook. Speaking of movies, I am taking a “Science in Movies” course here in Hawaii. Does anyone have any ideas for movie clips (not science movies, just regular “entertaining” movies) that show/introduce a science concept? I am looking for good lead-ins for teaching how plants depend on animals. I am thinking of maybe using clips from Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” or “Pocahontas”. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Arlene, Thanks for sharing the Blicks Flicks link. I had never heard of him and plan to share this with some of my colleagues.

Margeaux Ikuma Margeaux Ikuma 620 Points

Hi Arlene and Alayna,, I am also enrolled in the PD course, “Science in Movies” course. I teach 3rd grade and have been thinking about using “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”. One of the science benchmarks in 3rd grade is SC 3.1.1: Pose a question and develop a hypothesis based on observations. And the sample performance task is to have students brainstorm different types of questions and develop a question and hypothesis based on observations. I think I have to go back and watch the movie a little more closely and look for a scene where he is actually tinkering and building his invention. But perhaps I/we could use such a clip to excite students and get them to generate some questions about weather, space, and technology. Looking forward to hearing about your other movie choices! Margeaux

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

Hello, I just started the science in Movies class as well and am looking forward to the great ways i can implement movies in the class. I've also been thinking of different movies i can use in my class and have a few ideas. One I could show clips with is Gatica with Ethan hawk about changing peoples' DNA to make everyone "better" but at what consequence. I'm happy to hear from everyone about any other off beat movies that we could use in the class.

Kelly Asato Kelly Asato 3820 Points

Hi Dawn, Wow! You brought about a lot of discussion on thinking maps! I am also a beginner at thinking maps, but will give some feedback from what I have experienced so far... :) I teach second graders and have found that the circle map works well for observations. We have been working on the bubble map (compare/ contrast), but it takes some time/ quite a bit of modeling to get the students familiarized with how to use this map. The tree map works well to for students to see parts to whole and the relationship between them. I used this for matter. I am up for any other suggestions on thinking maps for second graders/ primary students. Please let me know if there is any other advice to help our students! :D

Alayna Maldonado Alayna Maldonado 1750 Points

Thanks everyone for the ideas on movies for teaching science to elementary students. I like the idea of using a movie to discuss/introduce the Scientific Process. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” sounds like a good place to start. I will have to go back and watch to find specific parts. For some reason Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” comes to mind because of Belle’s scientist father. Everyone in the town treats him like a crazy old man…this might be a good lead-in for dispelling preconceptions of what a scientist looks like or how they are supposed to act. Disney’s “Cars” might be a good movie for discussing forces and motion. We could talk about the different cars in the moving and how they each move differently and at different speeds – some are more aerodynamic. Either way, I now have some ideas to take with me as I begin my search. Thanks everyone!

Erica Kawamura Erica Kawamura 1500 Points

During the 2nd quarter, the other first grade teachers and I will be focusing on a unit about plants. Our school focuses on thinking maps and we have been using a couple of different maps while teaching our plant unit. One of the thinking maps we use is the tree map to teach the students about the parts of a plant. We focus on the root, stem, leaves, flower and fruit. Another thinking map we use is a flow map. The students are given cards of the different stages of the plant life cycle and work together with their peers to put the cards in order. The students practice using cards displaying different plants. Another way we use the flow map is to have the students create their own flow map. After the students have grown their plants in school, we complete a flow map of the life cycle of a plant.

Maritza Garneff Maritza Garneff 4050 Points

Thank you, I have just completed some extensive researching on Thinking Maps. To be honest, I have used graphic organizers before, but Thinking Maps take it to the next level of higher order thinking. I cannot wait to implement these with my students!

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

Thinking maps are great ways for students to quickly organize their thoughts and to help them to review what they have learned for a test or quiz. One of the first kinds of thinking maps I use is a Venn diagram for example to compare the differences between to planets in the solar system. Another thinking map I use in Science is a bubble map. Bubble maps help to get many different aspects or parts of a whole organized on a sheet of paper. Again I used a bubble map to organize the different types of planets in the solar system and why they are in their particular group. I read others great ideas and I can wait to use them in class and I hope my small tid-bit can help anyone else out there.

Eugene Pascual Eugene Pascual 1075 Points

Wow! I really like the discussions on this posting of Thinking maps. I struggle in science and now have ideas on how thinking maps can be used as formative assessments. As my students slowly transition into life science, I can use some of the ideas that have popped up. Food web - bubble map/flow map Food chains - flow map Life cycle - flow map Cells - brace map, double bubble map

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

I really like the post on the examples on using thinking maps as formative assessments. They shouldn’t take too long to do and it would show understanding or if the student still needs extra support. I just used a flow map to show the cause and effect of the different body systems and how they work to help keep us alive. I also had the students create flow mats on different things can affect the body systems. I still really like thinking maps because they’re easy to understand and students think they’re getting away with writing but they still show understanding.

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Thinking Maps have always been a wonderful way to organize thinking across a complex topic. When I have used them with students, they really appreciate the ability to be able to think in “chunks” and put their thoughts where they make the most sense to them. Having an autistic child in my family, thinking maps have allowed him to be able to organize thinking in a way that makes sense to him.

Alayna Maldonado Alayna Maldonado 1750 Points

I teach third grade and use thinking maps constantly with my students. I think they can and should be used with the younger grades. I would suggest making a circle map with the class first, maybe one on the things they like about first grade (or kindergarten). Then you can provide a template of a circle map for the students to record things about themselves (All About Me). It is usually a good idea to introduce the map using something they already know a lot about. They can use words and pictures in their maps. After the students are familiar with the map, they should begin to draw them on their own. This ensures that they are able to use them in their own learning later on without prompting. For example, students will know that they should draw a circle map to brainstorm or define in context. They know they should draw a double bubble map to compare/contrast. As for science, they are a great way to assess student understanding and to organize note-taking. For example, students could cut out pictures of living and non-living things and organize them into a bubble map. There are endless possibilities as there is a map for every purpose. Circle maps are great for accessing student’s prior knowledge and clearing up misconceptions.

Lauren Nishimoto Lauren Lee 1390 Points

Wow, there are a plethora of good ideas on how to use thinking maps in science! I am a beginner in using thinking maps, but have used them in my fourth grade classroom. The maps that I've used the most in science are the bubble, double bubble, and tree map. I've found that the tree map is a great way to classify things into the different "branches." One way that I've used it that may work for younger grades too, is to print out what I want the students to sort. They can then cut out the individual pieces, sort them, and paste them onto another sheet of paper to create the tree map. My students will draw the rest, including the frame of reference, but you may want to have a template for younger students so all they have to do is cut and paste.

Elizabeth Penn-Jones Elizabeth Penn-Jones 1280 Points

There are a lot of great ideas of how to use thinking maps in the classroom for lower grades in this forum. I'm currently teaching Plate Tectonics and this particular unit is very vocabulary heavy. I think that I will use the cut and paste idea with my students as a warm up game to familiarize them with the previous lecture and maybe as an exit ticket after the day's lesson as well, not to mention, it will give me practice with various types of thinking map strategies. I must say being on this forum is definitely getting the gears turning!!!

Natalie Hepting Natalie Hepting 610 Points

Hi Dawn, I am in the exact opposite situation. I used to teach lower grades, and am now teaching 5th grade. I agree the use of Thinking Maps in lower grades is slightly different. However, ad Maurese mentioned you can enhance it and make it easier through the use of pictures. In my lower grades I used all kinds of thinking maps with pictures. For example, during my plant unit, I would take pictures of the process, and we would use photos to create our flow map. At the end, I provide a blank map, and the students are asked to draw their own pictures. That helps me see if they grasp the concept, and are able to make a recall of the activities that we did.I think with pictures you can use almost any Thinking Map. I even used it in preschool for things such as food and non-food items (circle maps) as you have mentioned. It is a bit time consuming to get the pictures together. When I am not using photos as my pictures, I have different envelops with pre-cut pictures from which the students sort out the once they need. For example for my five senses unit, I have a one envelop of noses, one of mouths, hands,etc.If I need to mix then together to have students identify, and sort it is easy and fast to do. It is a great time saver, because often students can take a while to look trough, and cut out of a magazine. Overall, I think science is one of the easiest subjects you can use Thinking Maps for in a lower grade. Collect things on a nature walk, and display such in a circle map (living, non-living unit) is one of my favorite activities. In my opinion using Thinking Maps in science has always promoted a more of a hands on experience for the children. Natalie

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