Category Archives: mind maps

Create a mind web organizer

Organizing their thoughts before writing their first drafts is a step many children skip.  “Takes too much time” they claim.  Or “Too difficult.”

If students write an organizer the way I was taught in school, they are right.  A formal organizer can be time-consuming and frustrating.

But a mind web organizer can be quick and easy.  It does what an organizer is supposed to do–organize thoughts coherently and concisely–but without the pain of a formal outline.  Plus kids of almost any age can design one.

Here is an example of a mind web from a seventh grader I taught this past week.  He divided his topic, video games, into three parts:  Minecraft, time limits his parents impose, and why he likes video games.  He had never created an organizer before, so I wrote down the words he said at my end of the zoom meeting, held up my diagram, and he redrew it at his end.  It looked something like this:

For homework he will add details on this mind web for Minecraft and time limits. After that we will discuss why each of these subtopics is too large for a good essay, and instead of writing the essay, we will  turn one of those three subtopics into the new topic of another essay and create another mind web.  This is a new skill for this student, and he needs practice.

Creating this organizer took only a few minutes–far less time than revising a poorly organized essay.  You can find more information about how to create mind webs on pages 8 to 11 of  my book, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay, available from Amazon.  There you will see another example of an organizer, this time created by a third grader.

The only three organizers elementary and middle school students need

To write well, students need to plan their writing before they write.  They need to organize their ideas on paper, tablet or computer before they write sentences.

Some workbook publishers suggest students need a different type organizer for almost every essay or narrative they write.  Other publishers suggest as few as six.

This is a graphic representation of a third grade student's handwritten mind web.

This is an example of a mind web.

I suggest three.

A mind web (sometimes called a spider web or mind map) suffices for most expository and persuasive essays. The topic goes in the center, and then, like spokes of a wheel, three or four subtopics connect to the center.  The student augments each of these subtopics with details.  Then using colored pencils or markers, the student loops the information for each subtopic using a different color.  Lastly, the student numbers the subtopics in the order in which they will be written about.

Use a chart for comparison and contrast essays.

This is an example of a chart.

A chart suffices for comparison/contrast essays. The student draws a horizontal line across the top of the paper (or online page) and then draws three equally-spaced vertical lines.  At the top of the middle and right columns the student writes the two topics to be compared or contrasted.  Down the sides of the left column the student writes the ideas to be compared or contrasted.

An example of a modified timeline organizer on Babe Ruth's life--childhood, school years, and baseball career.

This is an example of a modified timeline.

A modified timeline works great for narratives. At the top of the page on the left write “beginning.”  Next to it stack the words “setting,” “POV,” “characters,” and “inciting action.”  Below the word “beginning” write “middle,” and near the bottom of the page on the left write “end.”  Next to “end” write “climax” and “resolution.”

These three organizers cover the situations elementary and middle grade students need to write about.  I particularly like the mind web because it is so flexible.  The more “sloppy” a student is allowed to be in creating an organizer, the more apt a student is to create one.

I also recommend creating these organizers on notebook paper which can be placed next to an electronic surface if the student is writing online.  That way the student can easily glance back and forth to use the organizer.

For more on organizers, click on the cover of my book How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay in the  left side of this blog.