New tool aims to help Lee students organize thoughts

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – As the first full week of classes in the Lee County School District came to a close on Friday afternoon, Shannon Primary teacher Carmen Gary led a review activity for her students.
While those first-graders cited the classroom rules they had recently learned, Gary diagrammed them within a couple of circles she had drawn on her white board.
Gary’s diagram was an example of one of several “Thinking Maps” that will be used by teachers and students in the Lee County School District this year.
Those diagrams are essentially graphic organizers developed by the company Thinking Maps Inc. They are meant to help students to better organize their thoughts.
“It helps them brainstorm their ideas and put ideas together,” Gary said. “It gets the thinking process going.”
Lee County students will learn eight different maps over the next several weeks. Each helps with a different skill: comparing and contrasting, sequence of events, cause-and-effect, etc.
Once all of the maps have been introduced, teachers will use them as needed. They will be used across all grade levels and subject areas.
“I think it will give the teachers a structured way to begin a lesson, something students will recognize no matter what the content,” said Lee County Chief Academic Officer Kathy Mask.
The expectation is also that students will feel comfortable pulling out the map that best helps them in a given situation.
“We want them to be able to think that way and to be able to envision the thinking map without having to draw it,” said Shelly Brooks, principal at Shannon Primary.
Mask said the use of the program district-wide will give the county’s educators a consistent language.
“I’m so excited to have thinking maps because they are a systematic approach to teach any subject and grade,” said Verona Elementary Principal Temeka Shannon. “It is a thought process.”
Lee County administrators visited Pass Christian last year to observe that district’s use of the tool. The Tupelo Public School District also introduced thinking maps during the 2009-10 school year.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com

Thinking Maps
LEE COUNTY STUDENTS will use eight different “Thinking Maps” this year. They are different diagrams intended to help the students organize their thoughts:
• Circle map – Brainstorm and define ideas

• Bubble map – Describe a concept

• Double-bubble map – Compare and contrast

• Flow map – Sequence of events

• Multi-flow map – Sequence of events, with cause and effect

• Tree map – Categorize

• Bridge – Analogies

• Brace – Part/whole