Use mind webs to increase reading comprehension

Creating mind webs (also called spider webs and concept maps) is a great way to increase comprehension for child readers.  Mind webs should be created while the child is reading.  Details can be added after each paragraph if the paragraph is rich in detail.  Or they can be added after a page or a chapter.  The length of the reading can determine how often the student adds to the mind web.

How does this strategy work?

  • First, on a piece of notebook paper, the child writes the topic in the center and encircles it. For a child not used to this strategy, an adult might draw three or four “spokes” from the center, and at the end of each spoke, write an idea that the child should note while reading.  For example, if a child is reading a biography about George Washington, one spoke might be labeled “childhood” or “education.”  Another might be labeled “family.”  Another could be called “soldier” or “general.”  And the last might be called “President.”
  • After the ideas are determined, the child begins reading. As he reads about Washington’s family, the child might write down the names of important family members, what happened to them, or how they influenced him.  For example, Washington’s father died when he was a child.  His older brother cared for him, but then Washington had to care for his brother when he became sick.  Next to “President,” the child could write the year Washington became president, people who helped him, why he was an important president.
  • Sometimes details in one category connect to details in other categories. Students can show this by drawing lines to connect the details.  For example, when he was a soldier, Washington hired Alexander Hamilton to be his aide.  Later he picked Hamilton to be a helper when he was President.

For reluctant readers, a parent or teacher might need to work one-on-one, helping the child to create the mind web.  For a group, the teacher could model the concept by drawing a mind web on the board or on a computer whose image is projected, and by jotting down suggestions from students.

Sometimes children will write laundry lists of facts on a mind web.  A parent or teacher should probe about those facts and encourage the child to detail why each fact is important.  It is better to have fewer subdivisions but more details for each one than a long list without details.  Why was one of Washington’s helpers Hamilton?  Why was Washington’s work as a soldier when he was 21 important later on?

To reinforce the comprehension, the students could write one or more paragraphs, using the mind web for information.

Mind webs can aid reading comprehension in any subject.  They help children organize information and see connections.  Because they are informally drawn and can be added to at any time, they can enlarge as the child’s knowledge enlarges.

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