Monday, April 9, 2012

Mapping for Memory, Clarity, and Creativity

Mapping - in education - refers to a means of graphically organizing things.  Students map sentences, geometric shapes, statistical analyses, stories, ideas, data, and images to see how they are related and connected, to better understand concepts, and to aid in information organization and memory.

Why is Mapping so important?   Mapping helps students organize words, concepts, and /or images.  It provides additional memory associations and connections as well as offer a means of organizing and analyzing information.
  • By mapping ideas, or sentences, stories, directions, etc., you are providing means of associating different but related items and this in turn helps memory.  
  • By seeing, reading, and constructing maps for various subjects, students are creating more memory associations, more ways to see and think about the material at hand.
  • More memory associations mean more ways of retrieving information on demand.
  • Once incorporated into long-term memory, mapping and remembering structures (of sentences, of stories, of ideas) frees the mind to construct, abstract and be more creative as the underlying structures are so clearly understood.
Types of Mapping in school:
  • Cartography - stars are mapped much as seas and lands are mapped - to help navigate and determine points of reference;
  • (Military, political) campaigns;
  • Math -  functions, shapes, patterns, relationships are all mapped to gain a clearer conceptual understanding;
  • Science (experiments, concepts, surveys) - to understand relationships of factors studied;
  • Concepts, Metaphors and Analogies can be mapped to help understand inferences and relationships;
  • Language:
    • Words - are mapped to help students recognize definitions, antonyms, synonyms and to build overall vocabulary;
    • Sentences  - are mapped to help students better understand how sentences are constructed, to help them better understand word usage, and to help them be more effective and efficient communicators;
    • Stories - are mapped to help students better understand relationships between characters, concepts, plots, settings and themes.
In this post, I will be focusing on language mapping.

Word mapping is a visual means to help students think about and remember words and word usage.  Here is one example from

Sentence mapping encourages students to break down a sentence into its component parts. Sentence mapping promotes vocabulary and encourages students to think about terms or concepts in several ways. It also helps students better understand, recognize, and employ proper sentence structure.  Sentence mapping encourage students to build upon prior knowledge and visually represent new information. And yet, given these essential skills, it is often not done or is certainly not done enough.  Sentence mapping should be routine - especially for weaker language learners.  So here is what you can/should do for younger and older language learners:
  • For preschoolers this might mean finding the noun or subject of the sentence, adjectives or 'describers' and the verb or action in a sentence. 
  • For grade-schoolers this means decomposing sentences in to verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, clauses, modifiers, and compliments.  
Understanding parts of a sentence- decomposing sentences and mapping sentences should become routine exercises. There are many ways students can do this:
  • They can color code different parts of speech within the sentence,
  • They can put nouns and verbs above and modifiers below a sentence diagram (see below), or
  • They can simply label parts of speech above or below the sentence.  
Here is one example (from where students put nouns and verbs above a sentence line diagram and modifiers below:

Here is a different type of sentence mapping (from where words are identified by their usage:

...And from

Story Mapping - helps students visually organize various story elements such as characters, plot, setting, themes, problems, and solutions.  Story maps are used to help student comprehension, to illustrate the framework, structure, and organization of a story, and to teach students how to compare, contrast and organize various story elements.

There a dozens of different types of story map graphic organizers.  For young students, story maps often simply plot on the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Understanding story sequence is essential for critical thinking, for writing, and for communicating.  There are maps that help describe characters, that trace sequences and relationships of story events, that graph word usage and compare and contrast concepts and themes.

Here is a simple beginning/middle/end story map, again from :
Another type of visual story map may involve showing how two themes are related. In the example below (again from Reading Rocket) students use a venn diagram to map relationships:
The list and types of story maps are varied according to themes, goals, and preferences.  Experiment with them or create your own.

While many kids find this challenging (and some - I was one) boring, it is actually quite important for students to do.  Once the concept of mapping is understood, you might let them create their own types of 'mapping' while incorporating form and structure. Talk about what works and doesn't work with their maps and why.  Make it fun and meaningful.

Thank you for your time and your visit. I'd love to hear what you think...


  1. These are great exercises for kids!

    Stopping by from the Tuesday Train ...


  2. Hi, I've seen your posts a couple of times now on the Hip Homeschool Hop, and have now become your newest follower. This was interesting to read. I'll have to try to explain to my kids the overlap that mapping has in various subjects. They love to discuss stories, and the meanings of words, and yet can be reluctant when it comes to diagramming sentences. Thanks for the ideas!

  3. I love this post! As a kid, I was weird in that I loved parsing sentences and to this day, I remember how to do it. Most of the younger teachers in my old school would come to me to ask how to teach grammar or ask "What is a conjunction?" "What's a preposition?" etc. I actually had one student whom I'd taught in Grade 4 ask her Mom if I would refresh and improve her grammar skills the summer before she entered high school. It's unfortunate that there isn't enough emphasis on this in schools these days. I used colour coding with my students and had huge sheets of paper hanging all over the room showing various parts of speech. I made it fun for them and now they remember!

    abcw team

  4. I wish you were my teacher many years ago. Maybe I would have understood the whole diagraming thing.
    I never got the grammar part the way I should have.
    In reading your post, I found my mind going into road blocks. I guess some things are embedded too deeply.

  5. I'm with photowannabe on this one.
    Jane x

    1. Mapping is very important. I did it too when I was teaching. I divided excercises into various groups. Grammar was divided in excercises of sentence structures, plurals, verbs. Furthermore prepositions, vocabulary, ... It was fun to make these excercises.
      Thanks for your interesting post! Thanks also for your visit and comment!

      Wil, ABC Wednesday Team.

  6. You did a marvelous job explaining the concept of mapping in education. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

    1. Oh Meryl! I forgot to say how wonderful that your brother had his Barmitswa in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue!
      I came back in the Netherlands on 22nd March. So I cannot visit the photo exhibition you mentioned! Sorry!

  7. Some good mapping tools. I find mind maps so useful for taking notes, you can see things at a glance.

  8. Wow, I just learned so much! Great post about Mapping, and thanks for linking up :)


  9. This is a great post on mapping. I remember sentence mapping in seventh grade. I loved it. My fellow classmate? Not so much. Thanks for visiting and linking up! Have a great week!

  10. I have my students make word map even before they create sketches for artwork. I think it's a great thing to do.

  11. diagramming sentences is the best way to understand sentence structure. it's also important for learning foreign languages, of course immersion is better but, it gives a better understanding for writing.

     care for those age’d until the end

  12. I'm going to keep this in mind for when I return to school in the fall. Although I think I've done versions of this in the past, your detailed explanation will be a great help!

  13. Dear Meryl,

    I love your blog and I have always found the concept of mapping extremely useful, both as an organizational and a creativity tool! As a writer, language mapping is of particular interest!

    I host a weekly party called Inspire Me Monday where I encourage my readers to share their creative post of all types. This would be a PERFECT article to share! I hope you'll stop by and consider linking up. The direct link to the current party is below:

    Have a wonderful week & I look forward to getting to know you (stopping by from Wordless Wed!)


    Create With Joy

  14. When I was in junior high, a thousand yearts ago, we used to diagram sentences. Think it helped me a lot.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  15. the Yes, it seems like a very valuable teaching and learning tool. I always love 'learning' on my stop here at your blog. Always educational and engaging.

  16. Very detailed illustration Meryl! I use this sometimes at home too.

    Little MISSES
    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

  17. Sentence diagramming! I remember that in fifth grade. It disappeared in high school, and it's my first time to see that, like that in 31 years. Wish I had more math mapping then. I'm having difficulty with statistics nowadays and we're using it at work.

  18. Very clearly explained, thank you!

  19. Your post is a great way of explaining outlining, diagramming and overall organization of information. In my world, there is mind-mapping, which is more free association of ideas based around a central theme/topic. Think of it as a stream of consciousness activity for right brainers. Great post today.

  20. I love mapping, whatever form it takes!

  21. maybe I should have done more word/sentence mapping with my boys. I always love sentence diagramming in school.

  22. that took me back to my school days. nicely done. thanks for visiting my blog.

  23. It is strange how some things stick with us once we have learned them, while other things are quickly forgotten. I still use a diagram when I write most of my sentences because it was so ingrained into my sentence structure for so many years of schooling. I have always been thankful for the teacher who taught me that.

    Thanks for so much information and for joining us in this weeks Theme Thursday. Hope to learn a lot more from you.

    God bless.

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