Thinking Maps


Thinking Maps, developed by Dr. David Hyerle, are visual teaching tools that foster and encourage lifelong learning. They are based on a simple yet profound insight: The one common instructional thread that binds together all teachers, from pre-kindergarten through postgraduate, is that they all teach the same thought processes.

Based on thorough and well-accepted academic study and brain research, the eight Thinking Map tools correspond with eight fundamental thinking processes.

Thinking Maps, Inc. is committed to improving the quality of teaching and learning through the effective implementation of Thinking Maps in schools and school districts around the world. Through quality training, materials and support services, we will equip learning communities with the tools necessary to become successful thinkers, problem solvers, decision makers, and ultimately, lifelong learners.

Thank you Geoffrey Suddreth, General Manager of Thinking Maps®, Inc.; Chris Yeager, Consultant Director for Thinking Maps®, Inc.; and David Hyerle, creator of Thinking Maps® and founder of Thinking Foundation for providing use of Thinking Maps® with professional development by Thinking Schools Ethiopia (Part of Eminence Social Entrepreneurs, Ethiopia) for school leaders, NGO leaders and educators in Ethiopia. Thank you to Corwin Press and the author David Hyerle for permission for reprinting excerpts from Visual Tools for Transforming Information into Knowledge (second edition).

The information below of the Thinking Maps and Frame of Reference for each of the maps  provides an overview. To deeply understand and implement Thinking Maps as a visual language in the classroom and whole school setting, please contact Thinking Schools Ethiopia for professional development training in Ethiopia.

Circle Map

Thinking Process
Defining in Context
Defining in Context is the process of becoming aware of and defining some “thing” in context by representing it using signs, symbols or drawings.

Thinking Map – Circle Map
The Circle Map is used for brainstorming ideas and for showing prior knowledge about a topic by providing context information. In the center circle use words, numbers, pictures or any other sign or symbol to represent the object, person or idea you are trying to understand and define. In the outside circle write or draw any information that puts this thing in context.

Flow Map
Thinking Process

Sequencing is the process of identifying the relationships between stages and substages of an event (or order of numbers, operations, steps, etc.).

Thinking Map – Flow Map
The Flow Map is used for sequencing and ordering information. In the outside rectangle write the name for the event, or sequence. In the larger rectangles-flowing from left to right-write in the major stages of the event. In the smaller rectangles below, write in the substages of each major stage.

Multi-Flow Map
Thinking Process
Cause and Effect

The process of sequencing is extended by identifying the interrelated causes and effects of events.

Thinking Map – Multi-Flow Map
The Multi-Flow Map is used for showing and analyzing cause and effect relationships. In the center rectangle, write in an important event that occurred. On the left side of the event, write in the causes of the event, and on the right side, write in the effects of the event. As you identify more causes and effects, add them to the Map. If you are studying a system, you will find that there are effects in the system that, in turn, influence initial causes. This circular cause and effect relationship is called a feedback loop.

Tree Map
Thinking Process
Classifying is the process of sorting things into categories or groups and creating new categories, often according to common qualities.

Thinking Map – Tree Map
The Tree Map is used for classifying things and ideas. On the top line write the category name, on the second level of lines write the subcategories, and below each subcategory write the specific members.

Bridge Map
Thinking Process

Seeing analogies is the process of identifying similarities between relationships.

Thinking Map – Bridge Map
The Bridge Map gives people a tool for applying the process of seeing analogies. On the line to the far left, write in the relating factor. The relating factor is the similar phrase that fits both sides of an analogy. On the top and bottom of the left side of the bridge, write in the first pair of things that have this relationship. On the right side of the bridge, write in the second pair of things that have the same relationship. The line of the bridge represents the relating factor that is “bridged over” from one side of the analogy to the other. As a check for understanding, write the analogy as a complete sentence.

Bubble Map

Thinking Process
The process of describing is based on the use of words that identify qualities: character traits, emotional responses and other descriptors that reveal a more distinct representation of a problem, idea or person.

Thinking Map – Bubble Map
The Bubble Map is used for describing through the use of adjectives and adjective phrases. Unlike the Circle Map that is used for brainstorming, the Bubble Map is a tool for specifically identifying qualities and characteristics and for refining the use of descriptive words. In the center circle, write the word or thing being “described.” In the outside ububbles,” write in adjectives and/or adjective phrases to describe something.

Double Bubble Map

Thinking Process
Compare and Contrast
An extension of “describing” one thing is the process of comparing and contrasting things according to similar and different qualities.

Thinking Map – Double Bubble Map
The Double Bubble Map is a tool for comparing and contrasting things. In the large circles, write the words for the two things being investigated. In the middle “bubbles,” use words and phrases that show similarity between the two things. In the outside bubbles, as connected respectively to the two things, write the words that identify their different qualities.

Brace Map
Thinking Process
Whole / Part Reasoning
The common terms used to define spatial relationships are “whole to part” and/or “part whole” reasoning. Whole- to-part reasoning is the process of identifying the relationship between a whole physical object and its parts.

Thinking Map – Brace Map
The Brace Map is used to analyze physical objects. On the line to the left, write the name of the whole object. On the lines within the first brace to the right, write the major parts of the object, then follow within the next set of braces with the subparts of each major part.

Frame for Frame of Reference
Thinking is influenced by .. frames … Frames are our overlapping personal and cultural experiences, values and belief systems. These multiple background frames give reference to and guide thinking, emotions and judgments. Surfacing our ”frames” or mental models (Senge) enables us to begin to see what influences the evolving patterns of thinking developed in the maps. We more fully appreciate the human dimension of ideas and the diversity within the organization. Each of the maps is a view of one’s cognitive pattern. The Frame represents one’s metacognition, or reflection on this pattern.

The Frame
The Frame is used around any of the eight Maps. After creating a Thinking Map, draw a square “frame” around the map you are using. Within the frame, identify information that shows the influence of background values, experiences and belief systems that influence the map you have created. Sharing this Frame with others offen enables conversations to evolve from positional to collaborative. Seeing from another person’s Frame is much like stepping into their shoes and seeing their thinking from their point of view.

Watch the video below on Thinking Maps and brain research with Pat Wolf known for her work with the translation of brain research to classroom practice.

Video below is in an Addis Ababa Government School using Cooperative Learning, Reflective Questioning and Thinking Maps®

Video below is a collection of still images of Thinking Maps® by children and educators in Addis Ababa and Hossana Ethiopia

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