Mind mapping

This post introduces one of the simplest and most useful of all the systems thinking tools, the mind map.  There are many variations of this tool, including concept mapping and spider diagramming but they are all generally used to view multiple, complex (non-linear) relationships in a system.

You can use mind maps for:

  • Making notes during a lesson
  • Planning for an essay
  • Illustrating a process
  • Brain storming
  • Revising

To get started, you simply pick a topic and depict it either in words or a symbol in the middle of a page.  Here is a well-known mind map of how to mind map.


Viewing this graphic you can easily get a sense of what a mind map is all about rather quickly.  How to get started:

  1. Start in the center with a description of the topic or theme
  2. Write whatever comes to mind next as a “sub-topic” and draw a connecting line, do it again, and again….
  3. Use images and symbols as much as possible
  4. Select key words and print clearly
  5. Each word/image should sit on its own line or inside its own bubble
  6. The lines should be connected, starting from the central image.  Important connections between concepts in different sub-section should be indicated
  7. Use colors to code for key ideas or sub-systems (sections of the map)
  8. Use thinker lines to indicate more important connections
  9. Put the most important ideas are near the center (its a hierarchy of ideas)
  10. Do it your own way!

In the classroom, mind maps are often used as a tool in the planning stage for writing exercises, as learners can structure ideas and discuss how they are related, but you can also use it to revision and to find out what they have learned.

Mind maps work visually. They stimulate your brain, helping you to:

  • Think of more ideas.
  • View multiple, complex (non-linear) relationships in a system
  • Recall information more easily.

To begin, for the first time, is best to start with a brainstorming of words based around the topic. The teacher writes the list of words which came out of the brainstorming on the board. Learners organise the words in a mind map and then compare ideas on how they have grouped words and related them.

Let’s start with a simple example:

1.- Begin at the center of a clean sheet of paper and write the name of your topic/title. In these case “mind mapping”.

2.- For each main idea draw a branch from the centre, using a different colour. Write key words along the branch.


3.- Now use smaller branches to represent linked ideas. Use the same colour as the main branch.


4.- You could also use images or symbols to illustrate your ideas.

how to mind maps

Thanks for your time, I hope it used to try to start making a new mind map and if you are a teacher to introduce this new thinking tool in the clasroom.