Concept Maps and Graphic Organizers: Two Tools for Success in the Science Classroom.
What is a sure-fire way to make our students hate taking a science class? Completely overwhelm them with facts, figures, data, definitions, comparisons, diagrams, charts, tables, memorizing the textbook ... Well, I think you get the point.
There is no getting away from the fact that a science class has a lot of information! We definitely should be teaching our students the big ideas and concepts, but these big ideas don't mean a lot if the underlying supporting information is not there. Our science students are going to have to learn a lot of new vocabulary and definitions. But we can make the job of learning big chunks of information a bit more manageable. Successful students are happy students!
The idea of concept mapping is not new or innovative. It is, however, often neglected as a tool to help our students. Students do not naturally know how to take information and organize it into a logical fashion. We, the teachers, have to teach them this skill.
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Let me suggest a different approach as you begin the new school year. Teach your students skills that will make them successful learners. Help them incorporate concept mapping into their daily study routine. Make concept mapping a regular homework assignment throughout the school year. You will find that students show less fear and trepidation when new information is presented, and that their retention of science information is vastly increased.
What are the cons to this? It takes time to teach students how to develop concept maps and graphic organizers. You will have to spend some of your valuable time at the beginning of the school year to teach the skill. You then have to follow up. It does no good to teach the skill unless you have students continue to use it all year long. The information we teach in a science class can easily be organized into flow charts, concept maps, cycles and chains.
How do you teach it? I teach my students how to construct three different types of concept maps They are: Concept maps or flow charts, event chains, and cycle maps. These three types of graphic organizers can be used for any type of science concept or reading passage.
I have developed a PowerPoint and student worksheets to aid my teaching of this skill. In both the PowerPoint and the practice problem worksheets, students are given passages of scientific information to read. The student must first decide what type of graphic organizer would be best for the passage. Then, the student must organize and draw the appropriate graphic organizer.