Created by: Mary Anne McMurray
associate biology professor
Henderson Community College, Henderson, KY

Grade level: 7-12

Subject: Science


This lesson introduces students to concept mapping. Since it was used for a science class, this particular map will cover the biological concept of mitochondria, which the students had been studying for some time. This lesson assumes that students will use Inspiration® to create their maps, but they also can be created with paper and a pen, sticky notes, index cards, etc.

Materials needed

1. Inspiration® software
2. A projection device to display the screen to the whole class
Enough computers for the students to use in small groups


1. Before beginning concept mapping, students must have some familiarity with the general topic to be mapped. They may have read about the topic in their textbook, watched a video, listened to a lecture, etc. The more experience they have had with the topic, the better. It helps to have the initial exposure to this technique concern a topic to which the students have had more than a mere introduction, i.e., one with which they are somewhat comfortable.

On the computer

1. Explain to the students that a concept map is a written representation of the relationships among major concepts, ideas, objects or activities. Then model the creation of a map for them.

a. First, using Point & Type, make a list of major concepts to include on the map.
b. Under each major concept, list more specific concepts to form a cluster of related ideas.
c. Draw links connecting the major ideas to one another.
d. Write labels on the lines that describe how one concept links to another.
e. Draw cross-links that relate concepts in one part of the map to concepts in another part of the map. Cross-links should have an arrowhead that indicates the intended direction of the relationship.
f. Label these lines to describe the connections.

2. Explain that there are many correct ways to map the same set of concepts. The better the students understand the concepts and how they are related, the better the map students can draw. Studying and thinking about the concepts they want to map will make the map richer as well as more accurate.
3. Now split the students into small groups. If there are enough computers, give one to each group; otherwise, the teacher can operate one computer for the whole class. (This lesson uses one computer.)
4. Each group generates some of the most important concepts related to the topic to be mapped, then contributes to a list that the teacher (or a student) records in Inspiration
®. Then, again in small groups, the students come up with ten or twelve terms that they deem most important to include in their concept map of the topic.
5. The students direct the teacher to arrange and rearrange the concepts they’ve chosen and then to draw links connecting concepts to show relationships. Encourage them to note when arrows are needed to clarify the direction of a relationship.
6. Throughout this process, encourage discussion about which concepts should be included, which should not, and in what ways they can relate.
7. Now save and print out the map.

Follow-up activities

1. At the conclusion of the unit, have the students critique this map. In small groups or as a class, have them alter or add to the map to reflect their enhanced learning.
2. Assign students to map additional topics as independent assignments.
3. Qualities to look for in concept maps:

a. Original work, using the student’s own way of organizing the information.
b. Appropriate to the topic. They should represent a good overview of the topic without showing extreme detail.
c. Correct links and appropriate descriptions of the relationships.
d. Neat, easy to read.
e. Cross-links that are rich in meaning and precise linking terms.

Concept map of mitochondria. Created by
students Jason Carroll and Anthony Nordhoft.

concept map of mitochondria

Source: Strategic Transitions