Mind maps are diagrams that help us organize information visually. They are mostly used for brainstorming, note-taking or summarizing. I started using them to help students learn vocabulary 5 years ago and created what I call my word map.

The aim is to explore a specific word or lexical phrase. Students can go online or use their dictionaries to complete the map. They can also use web tools like visuwords. I usually ask them to select the most difficult word from the lesson but of course you can choose the item you want them to explore. You can also turn it into a game, e.g. don’t write the word and let us guess it after we read your notes.

It can be done individually, in pairs or groups. Good back-up/fast-finishers/homework task too!

In word association, I encourage students to write hyponyms eg if the target word is vehicle, they can write car, motorcycle, truck etc. They can also include items that collocate with the target word.

In pronunciation, if your students understand the phonemic script, they can transcribe the words. They can write words that rhyme, some students find this helpful. E.g. ache rhymes with take.

Needless to say, the one they enjoy the most is drawing a picture!

Based on observation, this activity:

  1. is an engaging way to retain new vocabulary.

2. trains students to explore words by going beyond a mere definition.

Feel free to download and share my template.

Teaching online? You can use this Jamboard version and also make it a collaborative task. Students use stickies to write their notes on the word map-see cover photo to get an idea. Remember to create your own editable copies, this one is view-only. Drawing can be tricky online- they can draw in the frame using the stylus on the board, their finger on the app, or cursor in a web browser.

Enjoy and share!


An ELT Notebook: An ELT Glossary : Hyponymy

Mind map – Wikipedia

Using Mind Maps as an Assessment Tool – Freeed.com