In my last blog I talked about a variety of graphic organizers and I focus on Mind Dumps. In this post I want to go more in depth on how to use graphic organizers that will make your lessons more interactive and successful. So the graphic organizer I will be talking about is “Mind Maps” which are “Mind Dumps” on steroids,  and as always I will explain how I incorporate them in my classroom. However, before we  begin with Mind Maps it is important to see how all these graphic organizers connect to both the lesson and the topics within the lessons. As mentioned above last week I talked about “Mind Dumps”, which are in all practicality a way for your students to write down everything they know about a specific topic you plan to cover in the unit. This is always better to do before presenting any information at all about the topic.  Also as mentioned above I transition the students into the next type of graphic organizer or better known as Mind Maps. It is as it sounds in general but more about that later. As a good practice for my Third Graders I also incorporate a “Think Aloud” strategy to model how to do a Mind Map which is really easy to do. Essentially the students write down all the things they have learned onto a piece of white paper. Then, in the next lesson the students use their Mind Dump along with their notes and textbook if available to make a full fledged Mind Map.



Once you have discussed the topic in class and after the students have done the Mind Dump with ample notes,(which all can be used as an assessment to find their level of knowledge on the concept you first taught), you will most likely find that some students may need a little more reinforcement. To do this and to take advantage of a prime opportunity we teachers often find ourselves in called, “the art of reteaching”,  which is done by conducting a second general class discussion on the topic. Keep in mind third graders and most students in the lower grades  love to draw. So the next logical move for any smart teacher would be to reteach the lesson by employing a, “fun activity / strategy”,  that keeps the student unaware that real learning is happening because they are having fun. This is where the Mind Map comes into play because it allows students to structure their ideas in a very,  “interactive / engaging”, way.  What Mind Maps allow the students the opportunity to do is use their  color pens to connect visually with the central topic and all of its supporting details by making the connections between them starting with the main topic and labeling everything including the lines they draw between each supporting topic. In this way you will see what the student really know about what you have been discussing within the classroom and it helps to create new and stronger relationships with the core knowledge being illustrated on paper.

So, now envision a blank piece of paper. The paper needs to be landscape position. One way to ensure students always take credit for their own work is to have them write their name on the back of the sheet of paper along with learning targets and standards. Now students flip it over and in the center they place the central topic of study.  Then, the students write the major themes around the central topic and they draw lines that connect to the central topic of study. Then, the major topics branch out and the students can write facts, symbols, pictures, examples, definitions etc anything that relates to the major theme. The Mind Maps promotes the following skills: brainstorming, problem solving, organization, memorization, creativity, and visual thinking.


    At the beginning of the year I did a lot of modeling, think aloud, and unsticking questions during the process of making a Mind Map. The students can do as many major themes as they want and as many branches as they want. You do not want to limit their thinking. This allows the students to write their ideas on a piece of  paper and they can keep it in their interactive notebook. In addition, you want the students to share with a classmate and add or correct any misconceptions. I love Mind Maps because it teaches students to organize their ideas in a creative and visual way. The amazing thing is that students can keep their Mind Map and reference it during a quiz, homework, classwork, or while completing class projects.




The Empty Page


Common Core in America today for most teachers is like the empty page of this blog’s background. With this state led initiative we, (teachers, administrators, principals, and our students),  have embarked upon a journey where the end result is one that should put America on a competitive footing when compared to other countries quality of education.  However, this journey we are all embarking on is constructed upon many facets of professional teaching practices that when first viewed looks to be very daunting for all concerned. As a third grade teacher in a inner city school who is starting to use common core for the first time, I know how frustrating the shift can be.


Hello, my name is Winter and this is my first blog ever! I hope to convey both my excitement and my experiences as an inner city Elementary Private Catholic School Teacher with all the changes and challenges we are faced with along with giving some ideas to those who are struggling to see how to make the shift into Common Core.  So lets get down to it shall we! Last month, I attended a Catapult Learning seminar focused on Common Core and while there I had the opportunity to communicate with other third grade teachers. I realized that the majority of the teachers did not have the concept of aligning the third grade curriculum to Common Core. The teachers were discussing that they also work in a inner city school and there is no money to get textbooks that align to the new Common Core curriculum nor is there very many teaching material that is align to Common Core because of the shortage in school dollars especially within the private sector. After working in the inner city schools I have learned that we need to be creative and open to new ideas. In addition, we also need to network with other teachers and share ideas and again I hope this blog become a way for us teachers to begin doing that.


One idea that I would love to share with you today is how to implement graphic organizers during note taking that students can keep in their interactive notebooks. Last year I used Venn-Diagrams, KWL Charts, Mind Maps, Mind Dumps, Time Lines, Spider Webs, Bubble Maps, Think Abouts, Making Movies/Sequence Frames, Predict-a-Plot, On-Target Predictions, Story Maps, Story Building Blocks, Character Sketch, Setting,Events, and Character Actions, Clueing in to Context Clues, Problem Path, Writing a Picture, Cause and Effect, Puzzling, What’s the Message, and Vocabulary Word Map. The cool thing with graphic organizers is that you can be creative and adapt it to the needs of your students. In addition, you can use graphic organizers across your curriculum. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun! The students can use different color pens and draw symbols or pictures that relate to the topic of study in their graphic organizers.


I used Mind Dumps as an assessment at the middle of my unit, but you can also use them at the beginning of the unit. Mind Dumps will provide you what your students know or the information that they have retained from previous lessons. Mind Dumps allow students to write everything they know or have learned about a specific topic. The great thing about Mind Dumps is that students can also add new information or modify their thoughts. Mind Dumps help students to correct their misconceptions on the topic of study. I used Mind Dumps for all the subjects. The students would write the topic of study in the middle of the paper and around the topic they would write all the information they learned. Then they shared their ideas with a partner and if they liked their partner’s ideas they could record it on their paper.In addition, the students would write the learning target and the standard on top of the paper. The neat thing of having students do graphic organizers is that allow students to keep them in their interactive notebook and reference it during quizzes, homework, or classroom assignments. We are preparing our students to become independent lifelong learners. Keep reading for more ideas to implement in your classroom.

Here are some Resources on Graphic Organizers: Click the Pictures below: