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X’Talk: Unleashing the Power of Mind Mapping in Literature Classes

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X’Talk: Unleashing the Power of Mind Mapping in Literature Classes

image Hey there, fellow educators and literature enthusiasts! Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Graham, a seasoned literature teacher who has successfully integrated mind mapping into his classes. We're excited to dive into this captivating conversation and glean insights from Dr. Graham Smith on how mind mapping can revolutionize the way we teach literature. So, grab a cup of tea and join us on this enlightening journey!

After a Military and a subsequent business career in the Oil & Gas Industry, Dr. Graham entered the world of Education and became a lecturer within Higher Education. Holding a PhD in Computer Science and Master of Arts in English and Applied Linguistics, he utilizes the latest Multimedia technologies in his teaching. He is also an active learner keeping up to date on the various spheres of education, taking regular MooC’s in his chosen subject which provides him with Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

My Lifelong Journey with Mind Mapping

Dr. Graham: Mind mapping has been part of my life since my days in the Military. It was only in later life did I realize that I had been using mind mapping in various forms nearly all my life. Starting with drawing mind maps on paper in the days before digital devices. These days however I tend to map almost everything. Mind maps were of great benefit to me whilst in my business career. Today in Education most of my lessons are built in mind maps which can be used interactively with students and we can work collaboratively on student projects. I have used a variety of mapping softwares and do not really have a single one that I favour. Each software has its own strengths and weaknesses. I discovered Xmind purely by chance and found that it suited my needs at this moment in time.

Demystifying Shakespeare with Mind Mapping: Exploring the First Folio and Analyzing His Plays

Dr. Graham: Firstly, I would like to clear up a number of misconceptions about Mr. Shakespeare’s writing. Mr. Shakespeare did not write his works down, they were performances. I am sure that you have heard of the first folio? The first folio is the definitive work by a number of key characters in the development of the first folio. Secondly, Shakespeare died without leaving a trace of his writings (or very little of his writing in general). Most of the work that we know today in the first folio comes from “Director’s Cuts” as part of various performances. Thirdly, all of Shakespeare’s plays are in five acts, no more, no less. This fits very well with the “Freytag” Model, where we see the start, then rising action, then the climax, following this we have decreasing action and then the final conclusion.

Today, I call this the witches hat model as it reminds me of the witches hats in MacBeth (imagery). Finally, without the what we now know as the First folio was initially entitled “Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies” first published in 1623 and included 36 plays by the dramatist. It was published posthumously as Shakespeare died April 23rd, 1616.

So why is the First Folio so important? It is difficult to imagine a world without Shakespeare’s plays, which have only been preserved thanks to an astounding labour of love that was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. Without the First Folio, Shakespeare is unlikely to have acquired the towering international stature he now enjoys across the arts, the pedagogical arena and popular culture. So many things we take for granted today in the English language would have not been embedded in the language had it not been for the publishing of the First Folio.

Now that we have set the record somewhat straighter, how do we go about analysing a Shakespearean play? I think that the best way to describe my process is to point you in the direction of the Shakespeare analysis map. During the 2020 Pandemic, I was fortunate to be asked by the Shakespeare Association of America to present a virtual presentation of all of Shakespeare’s plays.

The Impact of Mind Mapping on Student Understanding and Retention

Dr. Graham: Blooms taxonomy highlights the use of mind mapping to be the first in line when it come to remembering details. This is due to two things, firstly the use of keywords and secondly the use of color. The brain reacts to keywords rather than long sentences, where the keywords get diluted with the rest of the text. Color helps to place those keywords in particular slots. I have found that when students are researching, they come across pieces of information they immediately place it into the mind map, it is only later on that they sit down and chunk things together. This then gives them cohesive information that they can use when answering questions.

Maximizing Learning: Mind Mapping in Literature Education

Dr. Graham: In Cambridge IGCSE, AS/A-Level Literature. You need to build a map based upon the coursebook and the separate areas of Study in terms of the set texts you will be studying. This gives the students an overview of everything that they will be doing during the course. In terms of the Prose (Set text), you need to build a mind map of the prose being studied. Currently in IGCSE, we are studying “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. In the map we will have the close reading organizers, Vocabulary in use, Characterizations, plot and themes. In AS/A-Level, we are studying “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “Dubliners’ by James Joyce respectively and the maps will basically have the same elements. Similarly with Poetry, I build a mind map based upon the coursebook and augment it with an Excel spreadsheet comprising of all the literary devices within the poem. The final mind map would be for Drama, in all three courses there is Shakespeare, so mind maps devoted to Shakespeare are a must. Similarly in AS/A-Level we contemporary plays to study, such as “An Experiment with an air pump” and “Indian Ink”.

Mastering Literature Mind Mapping: Tips and Tricks

Dr. Graham: Literature-focused mind mapping is a powerful technique for organizing, summarizing, and visualizing information from a variety of sources such as books, articles, research papers, and other written materials. Here are some best practices and tips for creating effective literature-focused mind maps that I use:

  1. Define your objectives: Before you start, clearly define your objectives and what you want to achieve with the mind map. Are you summarising a book, comparing multiple sources, or exploring a specific topic within the literature? Understanding your goals will guide your mind-mapping process.

  2. Gather your materials: Collect all the relevant literature, documents, and notes you plan to include in your mind map. Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the materials before you begin.

  3. Choose a mind mapping tool: Select a mind mapping software or tool that suits your needs.

  4. Start with a central topic: A Basic concept is to begin your mind map with a central topic, which represents the main theme or subject of your literature review. This will serve as the anchor for your mind map.

  5. Create branches for main concepts: Create branches radiating from the central topic for the main concepts or themes you've identified in the literature. Each concept should be a separate branch.

  6. Use colors and symbols: Employ colors, symbols, and icons to categorize and differentiate between various types of information. For example, you can use one color for key concepts, another for supporting evidence, and so on.

  7. Include sub-branches: Under each main concept, add sub-branches to break down and detail the relevant information from the literature. This can include quotes, summaries, or references to specific sources.

  8. Be concise and clear: Keep your mind map concise and use brief keywords or phrases to represent ideas. Clarity is essential to ensure your mind map is an effective visual summary.

  9. Connect related ideas: Use lines or arrows to connect related concepts or ideas. This helps to demonstrate how different pieces of literature are interconnected and relevant to your central topic.

  10. Cite your sources: Include proper citations and references within the mind map to trace back to the sources easily. This is crucial for maintaining academic integrity and for future reference.

  11. Regularly update and refine: As you continue your literature review, be prepared to update and refine your mind map. It should evolve as you gain a deeper understanding of the literature.

  12. Collaborate and share: If you're working on a research project with others, consider using collaborative mind-mapping tools to work together in real-time and share your findings.

  13. Review and validate: After completing your literature-focused mind map, review the content to ensure accuracy and coherence. Seek feedback from peers or mentors to validate your analysis.

  14. Use templates and examples (Don’t try and reinvent the wheel): If you're new to mind mapping, consider using templates or examples. These resources can provide structure and inspiration for your mind maps.

Student Perceptions and Realities

Dr. Graham: Personally, I have never experienced a downside, however, some of my students tend to think that it’s not really worth the effort for some subjects. I disagree, but then it's fair to say I am not the learner, they are. Every person’s learning style is different. It’s the old saying “ you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

All the mind maps featured in this blog were created by Dr. Graham.

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