Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What is a Circle Map?

A Circle Map is one of the first Thinking Maps we use in Kindergarten. It is probably one of the easiest for young children to grasp and comprehend because basically they are taking a single (one) idea and defining it in its context.

Circle Map=a thinking map used to define information

Here is one way to use the Circle Map in a writing lesson on describing apples.

Explain that today the children will be writing about apples, but first, we need to gather information. Show the apples, and have the children talk about the color, shape, etc. Cut the apple (if possible, cut the apple beforehand OR cut it in front of the children and make this into a math lesson as well!). Pass out the slices. Have the children use their sense of sight to look at the slice, touch it, smell, and finally taste the apple. Ask children to provide words that describe the apple.

On a white board/chalkboard or a large sheet of butcher paper, draw a small circle and write the word apple in the middle. Now draw a larger circle around it. Explain that we are gathering information about the apple so we write APPLES in the middle circle of the Circle Map. Now we will be writing words to define apples in the larger outside circle. Write the words/phrases the children provide in the outer circle.

Now, take those characteristics or 'definitions' and add a sentence pattern that a beginning writer can 'read and copy,' adding his/her own selected characteristic from the Circle Map. Using the word Apples as the initial word an adding the are for the verb (which is also a High Frequency Sight word) reinforces the vocabulary that they are familiar with. The children now simply look to the Circle Map to select a word that they want to use to complete the sentence and copy it into their journals!

You can also provide an alternative pattern such as

Although this seems to be awfully simplistic, it is a very effective introductory way to use Thinking Maps and sentence patterns/forms with Kindergartners. It also provides them with a high sense of pride to think they were able to create their very own sentence and read it all by themselves!

Free Write!

Now that we are into the 3rd trimester it is time to begin to get really serious about sentence writing. At the recent Parent-Teacher Conference, the importance of writing was discussed as well as how our writing has progressed from the copying to the dictation of the individual letters in words to the use of Circle Maps to now making Tree Maps. Being able to simply 'write off the cuff' is not an easy task. This is MUCH more difficult than any other type of writing done thus far, particularly for English learners, so additional practice is necessary.

Thinking Map activities have been included on the website but these are not the same as 'free write' activities. Free writing activities are not structured and because of this, the more opportunity your child has for practicing this the better it will be (especially as we get closer to the May Writing Proficiency Test!). The following are some ideas for providing children with 'free write' ideas.

Note: In May, the Writing Proficiency Test is administered and Thinking Maps are not permitted. A test prompt (topic) is given and the child must write all by him/herself. No help can be given. Period.

Colouring Book
If your child adores Dora the Explorer or Spiderman or the Disney Princesses, go out to Target or Walmart and get a $2 colouring book. Cut out one of the pages from the book, have your child color the page, then say, "What is happening on this page? Tell me what's going on." Children have great imaginations are often more than happy to share their thoughts about what is happening in their drawings. Whatever the child's response is, tell him/her, "GREAT~Let's write it down!" The response becomes the journal entry, word-for-word.

Family Activities
If the family does something special together (goes to the beach, has a picnic at the park, visits relatives, etc.) upon returning home, ask your child, "What did we do today? What was your -favorite-best-etc." or have your child simply tell you what the family did. Then, based on the response, this is what becomes the sentence(s).

TV/Movie Show
After watching a particular tv or movie together, have your child describe what happened, who the characters were, what the setting was, etc. You can use the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why/how). This can be used to form the basis for the sentence.