I personally believe that visual support can help make any abstract idea or concept easy to understand. I had the chance myself to experience both the role of the teacher and that of the student at the same time. I often find myself to be very conscious about whether the activities I choose to do with my students are interesting and whether it will actually make the material easier to grasp on. I know what it is to be a student. While I am teaching at the 6th grade level, I remember what it was like when I was myself a six grader. Let’s be honest, the teacher writing on the board is not always the best way to teach stuff. Although I am a strong advocate of visual support, I do not think that any type of visual support will have the same beneficial effect. To me, the best visual support contributes to favour the level of students’ understanding, no matter how young the students are. Images and slides presentations is OK, but what is even greater is a tool that I discovered just about a few weeks ago: Mind mapping. Indeed, mind mapping not only serves as a tool that supports what is taught, but it also explains what is taught. It shows the relationship between one concept to the other through the use of arrows, ideas and sub ideas. It crystalizes the relationship between concepts and ideas in the mind of students in a way that makes it easy for the student to retrieve the information when needed.
There are various softwares for mind mapping (Imindmap, Cmap, Xmind, etc.). This type of software allows for making maps with ideas. In other words, using a mind map software, I can choose a central idea such as Mind mapping and, with the use of arrows, linking it to sub concepts such as the benefits, its history, its use, etc. The sub concepts can also be subdivided as wanted. Such a Mind map would look like so:
Mind mapping has many beneficial implications in the classroom. It can be used in various ways. It can be presented on the board (using IWB or simply by projecting it), but it can also be printed out and handed in to the student so they can review it and study it for the exam.
Mind maps are a great addition to traditional notes as it allows the students to exercise their thinking skills while being able to see how every idea are linked to each other, and how one concept can interfere with one another.
In context of ESL classes, I believe mind map could during reading comprehension. Indeed, the students could read a text that requires higher level of thinking and draw a mind map so that they can organize the main ideas presented in the text. This would be a good way to have the students reflect on their reading and to make sure that they understand what they read. Mind maps could also be created to gather grammatical notions such as adverb formation patterns, for verb conjugation, etc.
Mind map are help the students to create visual memory of the material taught and therefore, it makes it easier for them to understand and to remember. Mind maps are easy to make and they require little time. It can be done by hand or with the help of special software such as Imindmap.