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Mind Maps

Mind maps are an excellent way to help you process, structure and memorise new vocab. I’d say that the process of creating them is more important than the result.

They are also very creative/ flexible in nature, so it doesn’t matter in what order you create them, and you can easily switch between different parts of them.

When talking about vocabulary, I’d highlight three types of mind maps.

But with every type the principles are the same:

— Choose your means – by hand or in a program/ online – and prepare enough space. Choose based on how you memorise or think better, and not just how beautiful your map will look. For example, I draw mind maps by hand because online they grow bulky (my thinking process needs limits like that of a piece of paper) and I forget them anyway (I remember through writing).

— Choose the key word (or just where you can/ want to start) and write it in the middle.

— Quickly add everything you can and try to introduce some systems of categories there. This is similar to brainstorming. It can be your first draft, so the ‘rough and ready’ technique is fine.

— Use some additional material or resources and add details/ more information (Longman dictionaryozdic, google to search for pictures for sets of vocab etc).

— Have a second look at your map and decide if it needs restructuring, more space or redrawing (it’s ok to redo them – thinking and memorising are processes, not results).

— Redraw it if needed and add some colours, pictures, decorations that will make it more visually attractive (my favourite part). It’s good to come back to your mind maps from time to time, so make sure there’s space for further comments/ additions =)

— Show your map to somebody and describe what you have there and why; practise making full sentences.

— A week later take the same key word and draw your map again. Then compare with your first one. How much do you remember? Then you can add the missing elements and highlight them in a special colour. And 3-4 weeks later do the same.

So the three kinds of mind maps are:

1) Based on a particular word/ phrase.

Here your categories (“bubbles”) can be different meanings, collocations (words that are used together with the main word and are found in collocation dictionaries), synonyms, opposites, word families, idioms, fixed expressions, sayings or proverbs, grammar usage of the word/phrase.

That can be a lot of information, but because you draw the map, you choose what to include and where to focus. The main idea is to see the same word in use in many contexts and from different angles. Here are two examples:

how to work with a noun — it's mostly about collocations
how to work with a noun — it’s mostly about collocations
how to work with a verb — more attention to different meaning and structures
how to work with a verb — more attention to different meaning and structures

2) Based on the topic.

Here we go for different categories, subcategories and vocab than belong to them. We don’t necessarily look at how words work together (collocations or grammar). We build our vocab topic-wise, so it makes sense to focus not only on words, but on phrases too. It’s also good to actively use our knowledge of the topic in our first language to see what we don’t know in English.

Mind maps, image #3

3) Based on your personal associations with the topic or word.

In the cases above we explore the concepts more or less objectively, but with this one it’s all about you. Here we go for something about feelings, moods, ideas – something dear to you, something that makes sense to you only. The idea is to add an emotional layer to language and build the vocab you need in your life.

Mind maps, image #4

Notice that depending on the type of the map it’s very likely you’ll uncover different levels of lexis related to it.

What do you think of my maps? Would you like to share yours in the comments?

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