Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Thinking Maps In Kindergarten

What are Thinking Maps

Thinking Maps are an excellent tool for Kinders to organize their thinking and build a common language using visual patterns. I LOVE Thinking Maps and use them with my kinders all the time across the curriculum.

Thinking Maps can be introduced in Kindergarten and used throughout the student's school career. My daughter used a thinking map as a study guide in high school to prepare for final exams!

I don't have a special order for introducing Thinking Maps but usually begin with circle maps, tree maps, and brace maps. Later during the fall when we start to look at life cycles and story elements I introduce  bubble maps and flow maps. I always try to use concrete objects first and then create anchor charts so that I can refer to them throughout the year. In grade one your kiddos will begin to use them independently to help with both their creative and report writing.

Circle Maps are used for showing knowledge about one concept such as a number, animal or place. There are many different ways to introduce a circle map but I usually use a plastic ring leftover from our daughter's juggling days together with small items that have a common theme such as fruit, vegetables or numbers. Working together the Kinders choose items that connect with the main idea which usually a picture in the inner circle. Then we transfer the information to chart paper with pictures. 

I model using the circle map many times during interactive writing and across the curriculum ie: science, math, social studies and after field trips.

Here is an example using numbers that I found at Kindergarten Crayons and have used many times. Fran has created many free templates which are available at her blog

Here is another example from our spider project. The idea came from from Deanna Jump's spider unit that I purchased from tpt.

Brace Maps are used to understand the relationship between the whole and its parts. It also can be used across the curriculum. For example in the fall we used a brace map for pumpkins & apples, then mid year we used a brace map for the topic "friendship" and then again in science during our seed study. Here is an example of a Brace Map from a student's science journal.

As always I introduce a Thinking Map using modeling and thinking aloud with real objects and then transfer to chart paper to create a anchor chart. I find that using food like apples is an excellent way to dissect the whole into parts making it a very concrete learning experience. I do it in the fall with apples and pumpkins and follow up as a directed cut and paste activity. Later they make their own record in their science journals using guided writing format. 

Here is a freebie from Pam at Can Do Kinders

Tree Maps are used to sort and classify information into different categories and are an excellent tool for emergent writers or to sort ideas during report writing. For example 
the topic is at the top of the map and then the main ideas are the branches.  

We used this tool a lot beginning with whole group modeling, then guided practice using manipulatives and finally independent or partner work using letter stickers and paper to sort letters. Here is a picture of our literacy station activity. I used their names and then progressed to high frequency words. You could adapt and use shapes, numbers, colours, ...

You can deepen their learning by extending tree maps to list supporting ideas under each branch using connecting language such as have, can, eat. Here is an example of a class anchor chart for Insects and a sample from a student journal.

Bubble maps are useful for brainstorming and coming up with ideas and are probably the most common thinking map used for young writers to organize their thinking. Here is an example of a kindergarten student using a bubble map in a science journal and a different example from writing workshop.

Flow maps are an excellent tool to use for sequencing ideas. We often use this map in science, story retelling and activities where reviewing steps help with a task such as directed drawing, a new math game or table work. Here is an example of a recent small group story retelling.

We began by reading and discussing two different versions of Jack and The Beanstalk. Then we worked together on a venn diagram comparing elements of the two stories.

This enabled the Kinders to choose which story they enjoyed the best. Then I read their favourite a couple more times first for discussion and then just for fun during a transition. Later the students worked in small groups to illustrate the story elements.
(By this time, they knew what they wanted to illustrate and write). While they were drawing, I did guided writing with some of the groups.

Finally we put the groups together to create a flow map using mural paper and displayed it in the hall. It has since been used by some of the Kinders as a guide for self directed work.

Here is an sample of a student choosing to use a flow map during our insect study.



  1. I love using thinking maps in my classroom! I always use them as a preface to writing. I feel like using thinking maps has made them better writers. Thanks for sharing!

    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  2. Thanks Lisa. I find the student response so interesting, they really love the anchor charts and making their own thinking maps, especially the brace maps! Which thinking maps do you prefer?


  3. I love thinking maps. I just posted some on my blog. In our state we have a new evaluation rubric and it is essential for teachers to plan for some type of thinking map in the lessons.

  4. I just visited your blog, Kindertrips and the photos of your thinking maps are wonderful. Do your kinders make their own? How do they use them? Do you keep them on display as anchor charts. Thanks for sharing, Liz :)

  5. Greetings! How do you think what does your average reader look like?


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