Thinking Maps

Thinking Maps are a visual way to help students learn and apply abstract concepts. At Lexington, Thinking Maps are used at all grade levels to help students organize their thinking and improve comprehension of classroom subjects. Currently, we are focusing on the use of Thinking Maps to help students improve their writing skills.

There are eight different Thinking Maps connected to eight specific cognitive skills. By connecting a dynamic visual design with a specific thought process, students create mental visual patterns for thinking. Thinking Maps were developed by David Hyerle, Ed. D., and emerged from his experiences as a middle school teacher. Click on the tabs below to learn more and see examples of each type of Thinking Map.

To learn more about Thinking Maps at Lexington, please click here to read a recent case study.

List of 8 items.

  • The center circle of the circle map contains the phrase – our preschool department hands. The outer circle contains multi-colored paper cutouts of students’ hands that have been colored with crayons. The first name of a student appears in or next to each hand.

    Circle Maps

    Circle Maps teach students how to define a thought or idea in context. Circles maps are used for brainstorming, vocabulary, and assessing knowledge of a topic before or after it has been taught. The inner circle contains the main topic or theme, while the outer circle contains the students’ knowledge or brainstorming of the topic. The rectangle or “frame” around the edge of the map defines the context in which the topic is being explored.
  • A crayon drawing of Cinderella, wearing a long blue dress, is in the center circle of the bubble map. Smaller circles are connected to the main circle by straight lines. The smaller circles contain adjectives – caring, kind, happy, beautiful – to describe Cinderella.

    Bubble Maps

    Bubble Maps help students expand their vocabularies by using adjectives or adjective phrases to describe a topic or concept. Bubble Maps encourage children to use vivid, descriptive language that involves their five senses, logical comparisons or emotional qualities. Bubble Maps may be used for character analysis, for scientific thinking or to distinguish between fact and opinion.

    The main topic of the Bubble Map is written in the inner circle or bubble. Extending from the inner circle are lines with smaller bubbles that contain adjectives describing the main topic. The rectangle or “frame” around the map defines the point of view or evidence that supports the selection of the adjectives.
  • This double bubble map compares the states of California and New York. The small circles that list similarities contain the words beaches, oceans and mountains. The small circles that list differences include the state flowers – golden poppy and rose, state birds – quail and blue bird, and coastal locations – west and east.

    Double Bubble Maps

    Double Bubble Maps are used to compare and contrast two things or ideas. The Double Bubble Map begins with two large circles containing the things or ideas that are to be compared. Words or phrases that support why the two things/ideas are similar are included in smaller bubbles and lines between the two large bubbles. Words or phrases that identify the differences between the two large circles are located in smaller bubbles radiating out from the two large circles. The rectangle or “frame” around the Double Bubble map asks students to provide proof or sources for their comparisons. The frame may also be used to indicate a specific point of view that is influencing the comparisons.
  • This main idea of this tree map is kinds of graphs. The three sub-categories include the names and colored images of three types of graphs – bar graphs, tally charts and picture graphs. The frame of reference includes “We learned about 3 kinds of graphs. Now we can show information in 3 different ways.

    Tree Maps

    Tree Maps help students to group main ideas and details and to classify things and ideas into categories. The main category or topic is written at the top of the “tree.” A “connection line” connects the main idea to sub-categories or the supporting ideas to specific details. Tree maps help students classify information based on similar qualities, attributes or details. Tree Maps are useful for increasing vocabulary and for making inferences before, during and after reading assignments. The rectangle or "frame" around the Tree Map asks the students to explain what they are categorizing and why they are categorizing it.
  • The whole relationship in this brace map is the Iroquois League of Native Americans in New York State history. The part relationships are a list of the tribes – Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora – that joined the Iroquois League. The brace map includes a color-coded map of where the tribes lived within New York State. On a green background around the brace map are six sample headdresses, made of real feathers, to represent each tribe.

    Brace Maps

    Brace Maps identify part-to-whole relationships of concrete objects. Students use these maps to identify the parts of a physical object. The name of the whole object is written to the left of the brace and followed by one or more sets of braces that break the major part(s) into components. The frame of reference for a Brace Map should include prior knowledge or experiences that influence the student’s understanding and the source of information.
  • This flow map lists the sequence of steps for a successful job interview. The six steps include: arrival; appearance; resume; persona; communication of skills, strengths and abilities; and self-advocacy communication skills. The frame of reference is listed as “to make a great impression and get the job.”

    Flow Maps

    Flow Maps help students to sequence steps, stages or events. These maps help students order information and analyze patterns. The first stage of the flow map should include the name of the event or sequence. Major stages are placed in large rectangles and sub-stages in the smaller rectangles. Flow Maps may be drawn horizontally, vertically or in any direction as long as each stage is in a box and connected with an arrow. The Frame of Reference should include what the student knows about the sequence and source(s) of information. Flow Maps help students to answer questions such as, “What is the sequence in which these events took place?”
  • Multi-Flow Maps

    Multi-Flow Maps are used to illustrate and analyze the causes and effects of an event. These maps can be used to show impacts and/or benefits, reasons and/or results and to answer if…then predictions. The center box contains the important event that occurred. On the left side are the causes of the event and on the right side are the effects of the event. The Frame of Reference includes how the student knows what they know, influences on their thinking and sources of information. Multi-flow maps may be used to predict outcomes or analyze historic events.
  • This bridge map contains four relationships. On the upper lines are the letters E L L A and on the lower lines are crayon-colored handshapes spelling E L L A in American Sign Language. The frame of reference is “We are learning the letters of the alphabet so we can say and sign the letters of our names.” The map is blue with a yellow background.

    Bridge Maps

    Bridge Maps help students understand and explain the relationship between two different concepts, ideas or things. Bridge Maps may be used to connect related ideas and relationships and understand analogies and metaphors. The relating factor is the phrase that applies to both analogies. Students write the pairs of things that have relationships on the top and bottom of the “bridges” that are connected by an “as” statement. The Frame of Reference includes why it is important to know the relationship and sources of information.