Mind mapping

Mind mapping

Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill — Tony Buzan

 

My older son just finished his state testing and the process taught me a very important lesson. As much as I would like to believe that testing scores don’t matter much to me and that my children are way beyond the scores, I realized with slight alarm that the entire testing process does affect me on some level. It’s not so much the scores but the fact that the scores  might change the way my son saw himself and the subtle ways in which it might alter his self-confidence and self-worth,  was something I pondered over the past few weeks. He’s at an age where his friends talk about the upcoming tests and I think I saw fleeting traces of worry on his face on  couple of days leading up to the test . I also read a timely post from fellow blogger Intentergy that reminded me that testing is a pretty stressful time for teachers too! You can find her wonderful post here .

With competition hitting rooftops ,we are all stuck in a world where our children are expected to prove their academic worth and skills in less than 3 hours . Unfair , I agree , but that’s just the way it is and we all need to  fasten our seat belts and get through the ride, however bumpy it may be! As a mother , all I could offer was support and encouragement. It was pretty heartening to see my son’s self-confidence though! Whenever I suggested  to put in some time practicing, pat came his reply ,” Mom! I am so prepared, I could give the test right now!” While I tried my best to keep his self-confidence intact, I wanted to help him strike a balance between being self-confidant and not getting over-confident. My quest to help my son stay relaxed and get excited about giving tests ( after all this is just the beginning !) brought me to mind mapping . I stumbled upon some wonderful resources and books which gave me a great head start on the fascinating subject! I would like to add at the outset that I didn’t get enough time to practice this with my boys extensively due to lack of time before the tests,  but this is something I am planning to work on over the summer holidays and hopefully do a follow-up  post!

“I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head. How else could I capture all these mini inspirations,quickly, without the simplicity of Mind Mapping?” – Dominic O’’Brien, nine times World Memory Champion

 

So now ,more about mind mappingMind mapping is  a more creative way of studying and retaining information which are two of the most important skills needed in academic life. It is an extension of a couple of aspects of creativity that I had explored in previous posts, story telling and pictures in the head . Mind mapping combines these two skills to give you an edge over traditional study techniques like rote learning or cramming. In simple words Mind mapping is all about linking information using pictures and words which resembles a map and helps you recall content and facts about your topic quickly and efficiently !

Lets get down to the basics then. You can start as soon as children are old enough to hold pencils, markers or crayons . Start with describing a simple short story and ask them to draw pictures and write key words about what they are hearing. Be as descriptive as you can. Give them basic guidelines or a simple template of the main idea in the center and basic branches to key events or concepts . Remember, there are no hard and fast rules in creative learning! Their mind map doesn’t have to match your vision of the story or concept, and each person’s mind map is different. Be there to guide, but please refrain your temptation of teaching. The most important idea behind every creative approach is to enjoy the process and always remember to have  FUN! Mind maps can prove to be excellent tools to comprehend science, history ,book studies or just about anything! Your imagination is the limit! Narrating simple concepts while children draw their mind maps will be the only guidance they will need from you initially. Once they get a hang of it ,and as they move up to higher grades, they can dissect and assimilate complex topics using mind maps. A simple habit of mapping concepts as they read and study can create wonders in the way they comprehend and recall information. Here is a basic template to get you started.

And a simple mind map by me .Please excuse any errors, I am still learning this fascinating tool 🙂 .

mind-mapping1

 

 

Some of the resources that helped me learn more about mind mapping can be found here , here and here . I also went on to buy a wonderful book by Tony Buzan called Mind maps for kids . It covers all the basics in a simple yet concise manner providing lots of ideas to work on! I have just skimmed through the book for now and plan to go through it in detail over the summer. I hope mind maps change the way children view learning and helps them actually look forward to it! 🙂 As always, I would love to hear the ways mind maps helped your children , or your mind maps trials in the comments below ! What are you waiting for?Unleash your creativity and  let the fun begin !

 

Featured image courtesy: pixabay

 

 

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Pictures in the head

Pictures in the head

During the early years we know how great kids are with their imagination. A large chunk of their time devoted to pretend play or role play where one minute they are a mighty warrior and the next minute they transform themselves into a prehistoric dinosaur stomping  through wilderness. Their world is filled with wonder, magic and imagination. As they enter school and the big world however, they are encouraged more to think critically and analyze information rather than think creatively. While critical thinking skills are important ,it is equally important to hold on to the creative side too.

One incident that clearly stands out in my memory was when my younger son entered Kindergarten. He is a little shy person by nature and was a boy of none to few words in school. During my first parent teachers meeting his teacher showed me a picture he had made in class which was colored completely in black crayon.” You should encourage him to use colors that resemble real life.” She pointed out and continued while I was trying to comprehend what exactly was the issue. ” like using peach for human skin and blue for sky. Your son uses colors which sometimes don’t pertain to the real world !”.I nodded still a bit confused but requested to have the picture which she gladly handed to me. After going home I called him and asked him what the picture was about and he said,” Oh this is a black panther walking in the forest at night!”. It made perfect sense to me and I never really bothered telling him what colors to use in his pictures.

Now I must point out ,I really valued the constant feedback my son’s teacher gave me about him which was more than usual due to him being tight lipped and shy and I made it a point to be in touch with her regularly through emails so I could help him flourish. “I’m having a hard time assessing him because he wouldn’t answer my questions!” she told me one time and as much as he was loud and vocal at home ,I had to help him come out of his shell while in a social setting. As much as I wanted to preserve the unique personality that my son was,I couldn’t deny the fact that in the real world ,he had to give tests and he had to meet social expectations! I had talked to him about it many times and he really didn’t have an answer for why he would not talk in school. I knew he was nervous and afraid and I had to find a way to help him overcome this mental block. I realized children are mostly fed on a regular diet of math and science which are considered more important that creativity is often pushed to the back burner.

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Creativity doesn’t always mean painting or music. Its more a way of thinking . To find unusual ways to solve problems and look at the world. I knew I had to look at the world through his eyes in order to help him. A wonderful solution came to me as I watched him play his favorite game, role play! If I could get him to see the picture in his head, I knew it would instill belief and confidence in him that he was capable of voicing his opinion and communicating outside home just as he did at home! He already knew how to relax using calm.com so every night as he got ready to sleep, we played a little game. He would close his eyes and take deep breaths and I would name each body part and tell him to relax. Then I would tell him to see whatever I was talking like a movie. I would ask him to see himself walking into his class confidently. I would ask him to see himself starting a conversation and making friends. I would ask him to see himself raise his hand and share his opinion with his teacher and friends confidently. Before dropping him at school I would encourage him to do exactly as the pictures he saw in his head at night. After doing it for many nights , I noticed changes in him. He made two new friends! and his teacher informed me that she was starting to hear his voice! Over time he overcame his fear and was much relaxed in a social setting.

 

Teaching kids the skill of mental imagery became a valuable technique I started using in various scenarios .I read up about the benefits of mental imagery in kids which can be found here,power of a child’s imagination .Every night before my boys went to bed I would ask them how they felt about their day and five things they were thankful for about that day.If they were upset about something, I would make them see themselves holding a bunch of balloons in their hands.I would include the five senses and describe in detail the colors, sights, sounds and even smell they had to imagine.Then I would ask them to put their worries in the balloon and let it go one by one and watch it slowly float up, up and away until it disappeared. I found some wonderful imagery scripts online for kids that we could say to them in a soft calm voice while they relax and imagine.

imagery script

more scripts

 

 

I truly believe that teaching children creative techniques can prove to be a valuable tool for them to use to solve problems in life in unique ways .It can help them maintain an uplifting self image and give them the confidence that they are always in a position to change their life for the better! not to forget the added benefit of helping them keep themselves  happy and always maintain a positive attitude in life.