Writing: Reluctant Writers

Dr Paul Gardner | View as single page | Comment/Feedback

Pre-writing strategies: story and mind mapping

Whilst, in itself, mind mapping may be a useful tool for systematically recording ideas around a given subject, the finding that pupils in KS1 can take up to 6-8 months of 'rehearsal' before they are able to independently construct mind maps negates their use as a 'ready made' panacea for the planning of writing with this age group. In order to become competent in the use of mind mapping pupils in this age group required a considerable amount of teacher support and scaffolding.

Although the use of mind maps was generally found to improve pupils' ability to structure writing, teacher observations suggest there was a tendency for pupils to replicate in writing what had been written on the mind map without further embellishment, resulting in writing which was technically accurate but lacking in flair and imagination. In addition, it was also found that some pupils produced very detailed mind maps but did not translate the detail into their writing. When using mind maps for narrative writing, pupils should keep information simple rather than making a detailed plan. The joy of narrative writing is in exploring an unfolding virtual reality rather than replicating what has already been decided.

The second phase of the project investigated the impact on writing when mind mapping was added to, or preceded, another pre-writing strategy. Pupils 'performed' better when the mind map was accompanied by another visual form of 'scaffolding', such as story-mapping or cine-literacy, than when accompanied by kinaesthetic forms of 'scaffolding' such as role play and drama. The order in which mind mapping is used appeared significant. The use of film, followed by mind mapping had a more positive impact on writing than when the process was reversed. We also found that although the majority of EAL pupils in the study improved when using mind maps, they tended to respond more positively to story mapping than they did to mind mapping, which would lead to the conclusion that story maps are more effective than mind maps with this group of pupils.