Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Advanced Placement and Thinking Maps

Lonni Skrentner, retired AP history teacher, submitted the following information about using thinking maps with her advanced placement students.

Thinking Maps

Most folks see NUA strategies and maps as tools for use with struggling students. I discovered they were phenomenal for use in Advanced Placement. The maps can be used for analysis, review and essay creation. A useful idea is to allow students to choose a map to use whatever the assignment. It seemed that students had “favorite” maps that they used well.

For analysis, you choose the concept or question and the students (usually in pairs) choose a map. Most students are tech savvy enough to draw a map in Word, Paint or PowerPoint programs. The maps can be emailed to the teacher one day in advance of class use or brought on a memory stick to load. So you make the due date one day early essentially. Create a folder within your documents and save by hour or just as a jumble together. When you put the map up on the screen, students “present” their ideas.

Good questions to use with class are:
Is there anything on this map that is outright wrong?
Why is it wrong? Creators – what led you to put it there?
Are there things you would add to this map? What? Why?

You probably won’t have time to use all student maps, and some may not be worth using. To grade this type of assignment, make sure you use a student’s map sometime within a unit and grade them for that presentation – that way you are not grading everyone each time.

For review, the field is more wide open. The most thoughtful review I found, simply puts the Unit in the center of a Circle-Frame Map. Some students began dividing the descriptive circle into arcs and putting topics like “political, economic, social” in them with specifics. The most important piece was the presentation of the outer frame – with the following question:

What forces created the specifics of this unit? (Obviously, you would make the question more descriptive to the unit!)

I also told students that they could combine maps in order to describe the unit. Sometimes you could use “Mapmaker Man” (See Jackie Roehl if you haven’t met “him,” though I don’t think there is an electronic version.) Again, electronic submission is the key to being able to use them in class – you save the maps (a day early!)

Essays are the toughest “gig.” I created maps for the two types of AP World History essays and they really helped some students. I never really figured it out for APUSH, though. I had students map the topics for essays – which worked well. Someone needs to figure out the “stems" for APUSH essays and then map templates could be created.

Now – will this work for all students? – NO! Will all students do the assignments? – NO. Is there a way to differentiate so that students who benefit can get credit from this while others get review, analysis, and essay credit some other way? – YES! BUT, that takes some grading creativity on the teacher’s part. I’d create a Grade Quick assignment simply titled Review, or Analysis or Essay Review and make it worth a certain number of points. To simplify grading, I’d probably use the column for a unit or a quarter, thus having to think about each student only once.

Got questions? Want to brainstorm? Get a coach or colleague to sit down with you. Call Lonni Skrentner, retired EHS social studies teacher (952-946-1173, skrents@aol.com) and she’d be glad to come in on an off day during your prep.

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