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Mind-mapping in the EFL classroom

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Mind-mapping in the EFL classroom

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden


The human memory has an associative nature. Association and mental visualization combine skills and structures of the left and right brain halves.

It is easier to remember pictures, photographs or drawings than words or sentences. In fact, it usually takes a lot of effort to remember words and sentences whereas when you visualize them they automatically pop up in your mind when you try to remember them.

This is exactly what mind-maps do. They are a reflection of our mental images and help the cognitive process. They connect our mental images to the network of associations in our mind and the process of making a mind-map closely

Professor Roger Sperry discovered that the right and the left half of your brain are specialized in different tasks.
These are some more functions of each side of your brain.

Left half Right half
• Words
• Time
• Logic
• Numbers
• Sequence
• Linearity
• Analysis
• Lists
• Conscious thinking
• Reading
• Language • Rhythm
• Awareness
• Syntheses
• Imagination
• Daydreaming
• Colour
• Pictures
• Dimension
• Unconscious thinking
• Intuition
• Senses

At school pupils mainly focus on the left side of the brains. We make less and less use of the right half of our brains. When we have reached the age of maturity, most of our creativity has faded away because we are not stimulated to make use of this quality anymore.

Because the brain thinks and remembers in pictures, Mind-mapping is a brain-friendly way to study, memorize and take notes. It uses both left and right brain skills in order to make the best use of the brains and is based on the results of modern brain research.

Chapter 2 How to make a mind-map.

You need very few tools to make a mind map:
• Paper
• Coloured pens or pencils
• Your brain

This makes it a very easy technique to use in class. Basically every classroom is suitable for mind mapping activities. There are however some things to take into consideration which can improve the atmosphere in the classroom.
There are four types of brain frequencies. In the classroom we aspire for our pupils to be in the learning mode when alpha waves are active.

The state of mind we are in is also influenced by our breathing. When we breathe fast and shallow our brains are in a high frequency. By breathing deep and slowly your brain frequencies will descend to the lower alpha level.
I have tried some breathing exercises in my classes. I noticed that the pupils were more concentrated when they had done a breathing exercise. They were less talkative, appeared to be more absorbed in their work and paid less attention to classmates or their environment.
Another stimulating factor is background music. This helps to concentrate and focus and stimulates the creative process which is necessary to make a mind-map. Especially music with a 60 bpm rhythm is useful for this purpose. This is the rhythm of our heartbeat when we are relaxed and so it works well with alpha waves.

Although I did not expect it, after testing it in class, I must conclude that baroque music does seem to have a positive influence on the behaviour of pupils. They appear to be more concentrated and more focussed on their assignment.

Many people consider these the basic guidelines and sometimes adjust them to make their mind-maps even more personal.

1. Make sure your paper is placed sideways (landscape)
2. Draw a picture in the middle of the page that represents your main topic.
3. Draw some thick, curved, connected lines coming away from the picture in the middle of the page, one for each of the main ideas you have about the subject.
4. Always start at the same point and work in the same direction.
5. Name each of these ideas and draw a little picture of each.
6. From each of these ideas you can draw other connected lines. Add your thoughts on each of these ideas.
7. You can add as many branches as you like and you can add third level branches off the second level branches.

Try to associate every key word with something strange and draw a picture or image to symbolize it. It is a fact that we remember strange, weird or bizarre things best. The right half of the brain is used to transform 'normal' information into 'abnormal' information. Things that are 'normal', boring or difficult to us tend to fade from our memory quite fast. Things that are strange or unusual tend to stick. That is why this technique enables us to memorize information by associating it with something else that stands out.

Chapter 3 Mind-mapping and multiple intelligence
According to dr. Gardner, schools focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. Children who have other intelligences do not receive much stimulation in schools. Many of these children are labelled underachievers.
Howard Gardner suggests that teachers should present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more . This way,
children with different kind of intelligences are able to develop to their highest potential because they learn through their own most preferred method.

In the English language classroom, the focus is mainly on verbal/linguistic intelligence. Using mind-maps is a way to address other intelligences as well.
Making a mind map is a great activity for pupils who have a highly developed spatial intelligence. By expressing their insights on a particular subject visually, they discover how related ideas can be connected to the main subject.
Pupils with highly developed personal intelligence also benefit from making a mind-map. They usually enjoy the process of exploring their own inner thoughts and experiences. Because they are consciously connected to their own thoughts and feelings, it is easy for them to use associations to remember.
It is also a way to stretch pupils' creative, spatial or personal intelligence. By using colours and shapes and using their fantasies to find associations pupils are stimulated to break their usual thinking patterns find new connections and ideas.
Chapter 4 Advantages and disadvantages of mind-mapping
Through my research I have discovered that mind-maps have many advantages over classical note-taking techniques.
• making a mind-map is fun. It is a creative process and a natural way to organize your thoughts.
• Making mind-maps saves time.
• Mind-maps make revision easier and faster because they are compact and brain-friendly.
• A mind map makes it possible to look over and think over the different relations between key topics.
• When new information is given, it is easy to add it to the mind-map. Just add a new branch.
Unfortunately I found that there are also some disadvantages to mind- mapping.
• When you first start using the technique, it can be a bit awkward to make one.
• Mind-mapping can also be quite time-consuming in the beginning. The more you use the technique, the easier it becomes.
• Because you use associations, a mind-map is very personal. A mind map made by someone else will probably not work at all.
• Although the technique is not new, it is not yet used a lot in schools. At the moment it is mainly used by managers.
• A disadvantage of computer-made mind maps is that most mind-mapping programmes are copyrighted. This means that mind maps can only be viewed on a computer on which the same programme is installed.
Chapter 5 Classroom organisation and study skills

Since one of the most important study skills is being organised, mind-mapping which is a technique to organize thoughts, is an ideal way to improve this skill.
Mind-mapping is a technique that needs a bit of practice in the beginning. A fun way of getting the hang of the technique is to have pupils make their first mind-map about themselves. They can draw a picture of themselves or use a photo as a central image. Branches could include hobbies, interests, family and many other things. The results can be used in a game to guess which mind-map belongs to which pupil.
A mind-map can be used instead of or beside an agenda. Take a notebook and draw a mind-map for each week. This might seem like a lot of work but it actually takes you about ten minutes a week and it is more fun because it becomes a customised agenda which gives a clear overview of the week.
A way of using mind-maps for classroom organisation is to draw a big mind- map on the whiteboard or a flip-over and use it to visualize the lesson plan. This gives pupils a clear overview of what is to be expected.
Mind-maps can also be used to divide tasks. The teacher can draw a mind- map on the board, each branch representing a group of pupils and the connecting branches representing the tasks for that particular group.
A mind map can help pupils to plan a project in six steps. As usual, pupils start with a central image that represents their own association with the project. The project mind map gets six branches.
• The first branch is called purpose. What is the project for?
• The second branch is named 'target'. It is very important that pupils have a target at which they can aim.
• What is the 'theme'? This is a very important branch because it can lead to several further branches of mind-map thoughts as more ideas might occur.
• The fourth branch is called 'contents'. What are the pupils going to do or make?
• Another very important part of doing a project is the 'research'. This makes the fifth branch.
• Last but not least the 'timing'. When will the project start? When is it due?
After trying this in class I must conclude that a project mind-map will make the project more creative, organized and easier to keep control of and will save time but most important they help pupils to see the whole picture.

Chapter 6 Mind-mapping in the ELF classroom
It is obvious that memory has an important role to play in learning and acquiring a foreign language. Especially in the communicative approach, pupils have to become familiar with and internalise words and sentences to use them effectively.
Mind maps are memory tools which use personal associations to make it easy to remember new information and to visualize the thinking process. That is why mind maps have proven to be a very useful technique to master a foreign language.
Reading is a very linear process, a typical left brain skill. The human brain is not very good at linear processing. However, the human brain is extremely good at parallel processing tasks like recognizing faces or identifying patterns.
That is why it might be a good idea to use mind-maps to improve pupils' reading skills. Mind-mapping explores the parallel processing ability of the brain. When you think of a word, for instance 'sun', doesn't it immediately trigger a line of associated thoughts?
Mind-maps can be used to help pupils understand a text, for instance an article, story or even a whole book. By drawing a mind-map pupils visualize a text which gives them a clear insight into the contents.

Mind-map on the life of Shakespear
One of the problems with writing assignments is that pupils complain that they 'can't think of anything to write! A mind-map can activate the pupils' thinking ability and creativity.
A good way of organizing the writing assignment is to use wh-questions, each branch representing a wh-question. Another option would be to first draw three main branches for introduction, content and conclusion. It is important to use symbols, pictures and colours to let the imagination run wild. The next level of branches can be used to fill in the details of the essay, story or other writing assignment.
Without mind-maps, writing assignments can be tough for pupils, producing low grades in return for hard work and stress. Planning a writing assignment this way will save time in the long run and will help pupils to be organized and write well.
Pupils can draw a mind-map to prepare a topic for their oral exam. During the exam this can be used as a reminder. Of course there are not supposed to be any sentences on the mind map, just key words and symbols.
I hope that with this graduation paper I have made it clear that mind-mapping is a technique that offers many possibilities for teachers of English as a foreign language, that it can be used to support various language learning activities and that it enhances learner motivation involving creativity into tasks which are usually focussed on the left half of the brain.
During my research at Blariacumcollege I discovered that mind-mapping adds creativity to my lessons and helps my pupils to use both halves of their brains.
While practising mind-mapping for my research I discovered that associations, pictures and even colours really help to organize thoughts.
Overall I found the disadvantages of mind-maps are far outweighed by their advantages. I will keep using mind-mapping activities in my lessons and I think that there are many more ways to use mind-maps for me still to discover.

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