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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Mind Mapping - A Path for Student Creativity

I’ve always made it a point to find practical ways to help my gifted students develop creativity.  It’s not enough to say “Oh, you’re really creative,” or to just settle for believing that your current curriculum is sufficient in developing creativity in the minds of gifted children.

I’m on a constant quest for creativity tools and have used everything from the old "How many uses can you think of for a paper clip?" exercise to sharing biographies of creative individuals, such as Nikola Tesla and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with a simple yet effective creativity tool, and my students love it too! It’s called mind-mapping. Designed by brain expert Tony Buzan (check him out on his Ted Talk) the exercise involves mapping out a subject or topic, using pictures, symbols and key words. For a detailed explanation of how the process works check out this video.

For a quick summary, I’ll outline the basics:

  1. You start by drawing a picture in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. For instance, I could draw a picture of Einstein if I were to mind-map the idea of creative geniuses.

  2. Next, you draw branches, which stem out from main image. Each branch contains one key word (it’s important to use only one word at a time since this reflects how the brain makes connections). For creative geniuses, I could create branches for “gifts and talents,” “inventions,” “ideas,” “problems” and “habits” etc.

  3. From the branches, you draw smaller branches or twigs, along with more key words for each one. For instance, for my “ideas,” branch, I could have several stems, one called “original,” another called “insight” and a third called “inspiration.” You can branch out as far as you desire.

  4. Use colors. The brain likes color!

  5. You can draw pictures or create symbols to compliment a branch whenever you feel like it.

Buzan explains that the mind-map reflects how the brain naturally memorizes information by association and draws connections between ideas. Once you get going with the process, it’s amazing how ideas will continue to pop into your head, and you will begin to see patterns and connections take place that you normally might have not noticed.

What’s important to point out to students is that mind-mapping can be used for anything—to outline essays, study for upcoming tests, learn new languages, plan out projects or presentations—the sky truly is the limit with this tool.

Have students try the process using paper and markers or colored pencils. There are also computer-based and tablet applications available for download. Mind mapping gives students another tool to be successful during their academic career. As a teacher, you will be able to see, as one of my students put it “How their brain thinks."