Spotlight on Strategies

Thinking Maps

Why Are Thinking Maps an Effective Route for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?

A common practice in classrooms today is the use of graphic organizers. Graphic organizers allow for content to be arranged in a meaningful, specific way for the student and class. Often, these graphic organizers are not bridged from class to class, therefore their impact is often limited. Thinking Maps provide a way to create a common language broadening critical thinking skills as well as enhancing cognition of material presented (Long & Carson 2011). Unlike their hearing peers, who learn continuously simply by virtue of hearing, Deaf students do not have that option; hence, the reason a common language is essential. Thinking Maps are meant to be used in all content areas, on a daily basis, and at all grade levels. Conceived by David Hyerle, Thinking Maps were created with the understanding that the brain processes visual stimuli faster and more accurately (Atlanta Area Schools for the Deaf, n.d.), therefore allowing information presented in a visual manner to make a greater impact. Essentially, Thinking Maps allow students to think, read and write better, aiding students in content organization in meaningful ways, leading to analysis and evaluation of the material.

A Standards Connection

Many times special education students, especially English Language Learners, struggle to make written connections to the material they have learned. Below is an example of a grade level standard as well as standards from younger grades, which are often used to help bridge ability level to grade level standard exposure.

High School Standard and Spiraled-down Standards:

12.W.05 - I can plan, revise, edit, and rewrite while focusing on what is necessary for the audience and purpose of a written work

V-W-3:1: Generating and organizing ideas before writing and maintain a record of ideas (e.g. brainstorming, listing, journaling, webbing, etc.).

V-W-3:2: Using a variety of organizational strategies (e.g., outline, chart, table, graph, Venn diagram, web, story map, plot line, thinking maps, etc.)

V-W-3:6: Sequencing ideas into a cohesive, meaningful order.

V-W-3:9: Adding transitional words and phrases to the draft in order to clarify meaning.

Example: From Concept to Completion

To introduce the concept of all Thinking Maps, students are shown an explanation from the Lexington School from the Deaf where the language of Thinking Maps is presented in American Sign Language, the student's native language.
Lexington School for the Deaf- Thinking Maps

Students will also be shown how the teachers of the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf have implemented Thinking Maps.

Students will be shown templates of commonly used class Thinking Maps, as well as a previously completed Circle Map and Flee Map.

Students will be given a copy of their "Self Awareness" Portfolio requirements as well as a completed example.

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A "Non-ELA" Challenge...

Thinking of the non English Language Arts content you teach, what are ways that Thinking Maps can be integrated into all facets of the curriculum? What are ways that students can demonstrate both knowledge of the content and the common language of Thinking Maps?

The Flee Map (pictured above) is a manipulation of a standard map. ELA classes at PDSD use a modified circle map when new vocabulary is encountered. Therefore, expanding beyond the basic structure of the 8 established maps, is there a way to manipulate the maps to meet the needs of your curriculum?

Here is a link to a Pinterest page that may inspire you, have fun!


Gallagher, M. L. (Fall 2011). Using thinking maps to facilitate research writing in upper

level undergraduate classes. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences Education , 2(29), 53-56. Retrieved April 7, 2017, from

Hamilton, C. (n.d.). Thinking Maps. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from

Lexington School for the Deaf. (2017, April 09). Lexington School for the Deaf- Thinking Maps. Retrieved April 09, 2017, from

Lorentz, M., & Terry, R. (2016). Thinking Maps: Circle Maps [Google Docs].

Lorentz, M. (2017). Thinking Maps [Google Docs].

Long, D., & Carlson, D. (Fall 2011). Mind the Map: How Thinking Maps Affect Student Achievement. An On-Line Journal for Teacher Research , 13(2), 1-7. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/owner/Downloads/262-1952-1-PB.pdf.

Malone, H. E., & Willis, F. (n.d.). Thinking Maps at Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. Retrieved April 8, 2017, from

Vail School District. (n.d.). Beyond Textbooks- AZ Standards. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from