Monday, March 13, 2017

Increase Your Use of the Four Cs with Concept Maps

How are you incorporating collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, or the Four Cs of 21st Century Learning, into your lessons?

Slides and PowerPoint presentations are classroom staples used to transfer knowledge from the teacher to the student. This "sit-and-get" style of information input, however, can be very teacher-centered. But note taking doesn't have to be so one-sided! You can increase your use of the Four Cs by having your students create concept maps of their class notes.

Concept maps help students organize their thinking, and are made up of a series of terms or concepts linked by connecting phrases. The concepts are enclosed within a rectangle, which are called nodes. Students draw arrows and create connecting phrases between the nodes. See the yellow graphic, made with Lucidchart.

I teach my students to build simple concept maps by imagining the two nodes and the connecting phrase are parts of a sentence. Node 1 is the beginning of the sentence and node 2 is the end of the sentence. The connecting phrase links the beginning with the end. Look at the green graphic for an example of a simple concept map. Note how the direction of the arrow tells the viewer which direction to read the concept map.

From there, students can begin to add more nodes and connecting phrases to their concept map. I tell my students to add interconnections between nodes so their concept map looks like a spider web rather than the spokes of a bicycle tire. Teachers can use the number of interconnections between nodes as a type of formative assessment. The more interconnections between nodes and the more web-like the concept map, the deeper the understanding of the content.

Concept maps can be used as a pre-assessment tool, too. Instead of creating a K-W-L chart, ask students to open Lucidchart and create a concept map on everything they know or think they know about the topic of your upcoming unit. Reading students' concept maps before teaching will reveal misconceptions the students may have. Since Lucidchart is a digital tool that allows students to easily edit their work, they can go back and correct their concept map as their learning grows throughout the unit. Because concept map creation allows students to be active participants in their own knowledge construction, concept maps are often used in constructivist classrooms.

Concept mapping will increase your use of the Four Cs because your students must use their critical thinking and creativity skills to create their concept map throughout a unit. Students will collaborate and communicate with one another when they use Lucidchart to create and share their concept maps.

Practice making a couple concept maps in Lucidchart first and then try it out with your students for your next unit.

-Chris Justus
Las Vegas

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