There is a growing movement nowadays among educators who are familiar with the benefits of mind mapping, to try to apply it to educating children. Is this advisable? Michael Tipper is a speed-reading instructor who also teaches mind mapping to children. He says that the approach of the teacher should be based on the age and maturity of the student because a child who is too young or not mature enough will be bored by mind mapping and will not be able to grasp the process.
Tipper himself does not inform the children he teaches that they are going to learn about mind mapping itself. Rather, he will tell the children that they will learn about a particular topic that is easy for them to grasp – say, a farm. He will use a very large piece of paper, then ask the children to draw a picture of a farm. This picture of a farm acts as the mind map’s key central idea.
Tipper then asks the children to name the things which they think belong on a farm. He makes it a point to encourage the children to use generic words to label those things such as Machinery, Barns, Fences, Animals and the like. Tipper draws lines from the key central idea – Farm – on which he gets the children to draw the images of the things that belong on a farm. These things make up the keywords of sub-topics.
Under each sub-topic, Tipper will then draw more lines to reflect the supporting details. He will then pull the children further into the mind mapping process by asking them leading questions – for example, for a sub-topic dubbed Animals, Tipper would ask the children what kind of animals can be found on a farm. The children might say Chickens, Cows, Dogs, Cats, Ducks and so on and so forth. He would then ask the children again either to draw images of such animals or to look for pictures in magazines.
Tipper notes that children do not usually follow the logical approach of mind mapping that is geared for adults. The mind map that results from Tipper’s approach to teaching children is one that is composed mainly of pictures. This is appropriate for encouraging children to become creative and spontaneous. Tipper discourages linear approaches to teaching children since the child’s ability to express himself may be stifled instead. Tipper’s approach is also useful for encouraging children to work in groups – one group could be responsible for one ‘branch’ of information while the other groups work on the other ‘branches’ of information.
The advantage of using mind maps when teaching children is that they think this way makes sense and makes it fun to go through lessons. After a mind mapping session, ask one of the children who participated what the lesson was about – he will then think of the mind map that was created and be able to describe to you in his own words what the teacher taught them that day. If the children who participate in mind mapping are just learning how to read, the teacher could paste on the mind map the names of the things in the pictures using large letters. The children would then be able to relate the picture to the word pasted beside it.