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How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Mind Maps

How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Mind Maps

By Raphaela Brandner

Teaching children how to read is important. Teaching them to comprehend what they’re reading is critical.

Reading comprehension is a multifaceted process that depends on the student’s cognitive development, experiences and prior knowledge of a subject, ability to make inferences, and more, according to Literacy in the Early Grades by Gail E. Tompkins.

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That’s probably why, when you Google “ how to improve reading comprehension,” you’re bombarded with a list of articles filled with esoteric verbiage about mental frameworks, remediation and reading attitudes. It’s difficult to find concrete tips your students can immediately apply.

Luckily, there’s one technique that’s both simple and effective: mind mapping. Learn how to apply this reading comprehension tactic in your classroom.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a diagram, a graphic organizer that helps students visualize what they’re reading and detect connections between individual pieces of information. In a classic mind map, you’ll always find the subject (in our example, the title of the book) prominently placed in the center of the map canvas, with all notes, ideas and keywords arranged around the center in a radiant structure.

minmap 1

Take a look at one of the many great mind map tutorials available online to see this technique in action.

How Does This Improve Comprehension?

Teachers have long known that taking notes while reading is one of the best ways to improve comprehension. Traditional, linear notes, however, are not the most effective format for this.

This note-taking process is monotonous and encourages students to write whole sentences, which is unnecessarily time-consuming.

In comparison to linear notes, mind maps offer a number of benefits that can aid students in comprehending and retaining the information they read. For example:

  • A mind map can help students structure their thoughts. No matter how complex an idea or big a topic, a mind map brings order into the chaos.
  • Mind mapping provides a clear overview of a topic. It enables students to see the bigger picture, find connections and detect hierarchies between individual pieces of information.
  • Mind mapping enhances memory by utilizing a number of mental triggers such as colors, images and a two-dimensional structure. Because mind maps encourage the use of single keywords instead of whole sentences, students are able to review core concepts and ideas at a glance.

To help students get started with a mind map, you can provide them with a template like this one:

mindmap 2

More: How Gamification Improved Student Reading for 10K Teachers

5 Key Aspects of a Reading Comprehension Mind Map

Here’s a list of the main components of a reading comprehension mind map. Each one of these components lives as a node branching off from the center and will give your student deeper insight into the literary themes, characters, and more.

1. General information

Students use this section to collect information about the author, when he/she lived, what his/her background was and how all of this might influence the book. Connections between the author’s life and parts of the book can be visualized with arrows. The setting of the story should be captured as well. Depending on the book, it may make sense to provide an overview of all chapters and give the setting for each individual chapter.

mindmaps_general info

2. Characters

Comprehending fictional texts is largely about understanding the characters; what they are driven by, what they care about, and how they’re connected to one another. Using a mind map, students can visualize the relationships between individual characters, both on the surface (e.g. Mercedes is Hal’s sister) and on a literary level (e.g. Buck is the protagonist, Spitz is the antagonist).

mindmaps_characters

3. Plot

You can help your students recognize plot points by providing them with a plot framework in the mind map template (see the green bubbles below), which they can “fill out” themselves.

mindmaps_plot

4. New Vocabulary

A major obstacle in reading comprehension is new vocabulary. To ensure that your students understand and retain all the new words (instead of just skipping over them), tell them to add the terms they don’t understand to their mind map, either in a separate vocabulary branch, or as part of the topic, theme, chapter and character branches the words are related to.

mindmaps_vocab

5. Themes, Motives and Symbols

For a more advanced literary analysis, create a branch for themes, motives and symbols, and add definitions of each to remind your students what each term means.

mindmaps_themes

More: 3 Ways to Reach Reluctant Readers With Technology

Implementation

Use the follow steps to make mind-mapping implementation in your classroom easy and effective.

  • Teach your students the principles of mind mapping.
  • Provide them with a reading comprehension template. You can create your own or use this one here.
  • Give your students the freedom to create their own mind maps or modify your templates according to their needs.
  • Have them share their mind maps with you so you can provide feedback for improvements. Using mind-mapping software like MindMeister, you can review the entire change history of a mind map to see how it evolved and how their understanding may have changed over the course of the book.
  • Have them hand in their final mind map as a book report.
  • Encourage them to create such a mind map for each book and each article they read, and collect all maps in a designated folder they can refer back to.

You can view the large, interactive version of the Call of the Wild mind map here.

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19 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Teachers' Guide to Mind Mapping | MindMeister Blog

  2. Pingback: The Students' Guide to Mind Mapping | MindMeister Blog

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Blog Posts of the 2014-15 School Year | Learn2Earn Blog

  4. Alice

    June 30, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Great article

  5. Pingback: Guest Blog: 5 Simple Tools for ELA Instruction - Teq Blog

  6. Pingback: Top 10 Edu Resources for the New School Year | MindMeister Blog

  7. Pingback: 7 Tools to Improve Reading Comprehension – Learn2Earn Blog

  8. Pingback: 20 Teacher-Approved Ideas for Technology in the Classroom – Learn2Earn Blog

  9. Pingback: 15 Writing Apps That Encourage Students to Write More

  10. Pingback: Take Better Notes in Class Using a Mind Map | MindMeister Blog

  11. Pingback: Take More Effective Notes Using a Mind Map | MindMeister Blog

  12. Pingback: 4 Teaching Ideas That You Can Use Next Monday (Templates) | MindMeister Blog

  13. Pingback: The Student's Guide to Mind Mapping - Focus

  14. Pingback: 9 Ways to Stay Organized at College Using MindMeister - Focus

  15. Pingback: 8 Inspiring Examples of Educational Mind Maps - Focus

  16. Pingback: Effective Note Taking in Lectures and Class Using Mind Maps - Focus

  17. Pingback: How to Take Effective Notes Using Mind Maps - Focus

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