Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building concept maps is harder than it looks

I'm having students create a concept map as a summative assessment for our Complex Numbers unit and... w o w — there is all kinds of learning going on.

 

Students are working in groups and can use all their notes and assignments from the unit. Some kids jumped right in and started hacking away. Others whined and asked why we couldn't just have a normal test.

We are using Post-Its, scissors, pencils, and paper to do our constructions.

In-process projects range from amazing to struggling, but what impresses me most is how much the work reveals about what students are figuring out and how each student is understanding and constructing meaning in their learning. It also demands that learners own their own learning.





Because this is so revealing, I am probably going to use concept maps both as formative assessments before and during the unit as well as using them as a 'ways of understanding' tool to help them consolidate their learning.

BREAKING: OK, this activity is definitely a keeper. Students are really digesting their learning, talking about it, debating how to represent it, and clarifying areas of confusion for themselves. Here is an outstanding example from today:

6 comments:

  1. I love it! Since creating their own concept map would be new to my students, I would need to set them up for success. I'm envisioning a think aloud or involving the whole class in creating a concept map using the previous topic covered. How did you introduce this to your students and would you do anything differently?

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    1. Mary – I didn't actually do THAT much to introduce it because I wanted to avoid the situation in which students dutifully mimic whatever example I put up on the document camera without doing any of their own thinking. I also want them to struggle a little with thinking of what is meaningful to them. Since we're going to do another one for the next unit (one as a FA "pre-" and revising along the way toward a final), I want them to have some "hard-won experience" that they can apply right away in the next unit for practice. So I am planning to assess generously and continue encouraging and building their skills in summarizing and synthesizing.

      For the next one, I think I might create a Keynote slides deck with a short build showing how *I* might begin.

      I like your idea of the whole-class think-aloud for a previous topic or for a simple topic. I was also thinking of creating one for something they ALL are familiar with, such as playing Flappy Bird (everybody seems to have an opinion about what to do or not to do! They talk about it constantly).

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing great thoughts, Mary!

      - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

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  2. The social studies teacher in my school did his midterm as a series concept maps about different periods of history. Students could bring in primary sources and notes and lots of colorful markers.

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    1. Jasmine- This is a brilliant twist on the idea. I don't want kids to get more involved in "decorating" than in thinking because I have some students who take a "Multiple Intelligences" launch to be permission NOT to be a thinker in the group but rather a decorator. :) But I love the idea of encouraging them to make meaningful use of color and color-coding, à la @mgolding (kalamitkat.com).

      Thanks for helping me think this through!

      - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

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  3. This is an awesome idea! I'm thinking about replacing my final exam in the trig unit of precalculus with this style assessment. I was curious as to how large your groups were. My first thought was no more than two, as the more students that participate the easier it is to contribute less and the more difficult it is for me to gauge individual student learning. Any advice on group size?

    Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Great idea! I have also found some great tips on How to Make a Concept Map using Lucidchart and their site was very helpful and user friendly! Check it out!

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