The Mind Map

The mind map was first introduced to me in university by my pedagogy teacher. I’ve never heard of it before, or never thought to do something of this kind. It turned out to be a revolution!! My mind is full of ideas of all kind; however there is something missing: organization! Everyone knows a good teacher has to be organized. Well, for the ones like me, who want to become a teacher, but are not organized at all, the mind map is there to help!

Mind maps are great tools for the teachers as well as for the students. In the case of the teachers, they can structure their presentation. This way, it gives a global view of the subject without forgetting a single information.

In the case of the students, it can help them to study. As this student says, the mind map allows to clarify thoughts, simplify complex ideas and memorize information. Hence, it is a great tool to restructure course notes and study for exams. Also, when using colors and images (the more absurd and exaggerated the better) you help you brain remember the information.  It remind me some of my classes where the course notes were going from the topic #1 to sub-topics and sub-sub-topics. You ended up with 5.3.12, etc. And when it goes to topic 6, you don’t remember what topic 5 looks like. It’s easy to get lost with this kind of organization. I wish I would have known the mind map back then since this tool gives you an overall idea of the subject and it is easy to go back to the main topics. Also, by using a different color for each topic, you clearly differentiate each idea.

If the teacher uses mind maps, it simplifies the work of the students. If not, the students should structures their course notes in a mind map when studying for an exam.

Here are some software you can use to build a mind map, even if I personally think the result is better when done by hand!

First of all, the one that I’m using at the moment is iMindMap from Tony Buzan. You can get a free trial for one month will all the features and then, you get the basic version. With the basic version, you have a choice between different images as a central idea, and then you can add up as many branches as you want. Then, you can choose the colour of your branches and write as long as you want in the different boxes (you can choose between many font features).

Another software I have used is XMind. This one doesn’t give you as much place for creativity, colors and images. It is more a conventional software. One of the disadvantages I found about this software is that you cannot move the branches as you want. Depending on how many branches you have, they will move around your main topic.

Here are some other free softwares to create mind maps: FreeMind, MindMeister, Coggle (tutorial) and Popplet.


Skype in the classroom

“I don’t want to become Einstein, I don’t need to learn English.”, is what a Grade 5 student told me about his English class the other day.

My opinion about English classes, when I was in high school, was slightly different but still I was reluctant to learn English. I had such a hard time speaking English in the classroom. I always thought: why speak English to someone you know would understand you better in French? And it would be easier for you to express yourself in French! I’ve spent a year in Australia after college, to realize that what works best for me to learn a second language is to be surrounded by this language only. No one could understand me in my native language, so I had to make efforts and suddenly all my knowledge of English was coming back to me. All I needed was practice.
What I’m trying to say here is not that every student should go to Australia for a year to learn English, but that the best way to learn any second language is to practice with non-French speakers. Since you cannot travel with your class to discover other cultures, you have to make the other cultures come to your classroom. How is it possible? The answer my friend is Skype!

Students here in Quebec need an extra motivation to learn English because you could easily live all you life in Quebec speaking French only. So why is English necessary? You need to give the students a reason to learn it.

Start the Skype adventure by meeting friends from all over the globe with whom the students will be able to discuss in English. This way they won’t even notice they are learning! Skype in the classroom is a good start to find teachers with the same intentions as yours. These “friends” could be native speakers as well as English learners just like your students.

Learning about someone else’s culture is so interesting you won’t have to give them extra motivation, students will be asking for more!

Another great idea to integrate Skype in the classroom is to have conference calls with amazing individuals such as actors, authors, hockey players, etc. Take the author, for example. You could have the students read one of his book and have him talk about the process of writing it. Then the students would have time to ask questions. Because they don’t want to look stupid in front of this important individual, the students will take the time to read the book and prepare their questions.

What is great about ESL classes, as my computer applications teacher says, is that you can talk about any subject, as long as you do it in English! Keeping this in mind, you have endless possibilities. Thanks to some bloggers I read, here are some interesting ideas!

Debates: Students from Quebec probably have a different opinion about the second world war than the ones from Germany. What about bullying in school? Is it a problem in South America’s schools as well? Have the students make some research about the subject to reinforce their arguments and open a debate with another classroom!

Peace One Day: Skype supports Peace One day to change the world, starting in your classroom! Subscribe to interactive lessons or take part in SkypeTalks. A great way to make the kids conscious about world peace, still using English!

Hold a contest: Again, unlimited possibilities! A science contest could be organized, linked with their science class, and they would have to compete against another classroom. Practicing science while learning English, amazing!

Mistery call: The smartboard is ringing, kids are going crazy. Who’s calling? Don’t know! They’ll have to listen carefully to the clues to find out where the mistery call is coming from.

Book club: Create a book club with different other classrooms. Every week, the students from every classroom have a book to read and will share their impressions with the other.

Yes, all these activities could be done inside the classroom between your students. However, the advantage of using Skype is that since they will have no choice than using English to communicate with their pals, they will forget the goal of this class which is to learn a second language and will focus on what the activity is about.

Using English to learn instead of learning to use English, remember this!  The kids will become “Einsteins” without even noticing it 🙂

Credits to those blogs :

10 ways to use Skype to learn

50 powerful ways to use Skype in the classroom