Our everyday life is full of problems and situations that require creative solutions, whether you need to agree on your weekend plans with your friends or reach a compromise with your kid. The technique that we apply, consciously or not, is called brainstorming. Brainstorming is an approach for generating new ideas and finding creative solutions. Some people prefer to make a scheme of their problem and its solutions, or the mind map. A mind map is a graphical tool used to represent your ideas, and to arrange them around a central key element. In other words, it is a visualization of what happens in your mind.
Brainstorming and mind mapping become more and more popular in the language learning environment. EAL/ESL instructors try to incorporate them into their lessons because these techniques encourage critical thinking skills and the breaking down of problems into manageable elements. Besides, mind maps are invaluable tool for visual thinkers and visual learners. And the last but not the least: it is so much fun to sit together around one sheet of paper and to draw pictures, to write ideas, to cross everything out, to draw again… Wait a second! Paper? No, today we’ll discuss how to use brainstorming and mind mapping online!
Numerous brainstorming/mind mapping tools and applications are available online: some of them are free, some of them are not; some tools are more user friendly than others; some of them require registration, while others can be used right away.
To name a few:
- Stormboard (www.stormboard.com)
- Bubbl.us (www.bubbl.us)
- Spiderscribe (www.spiderscribe.net)
- Solvr (www.a.freshbrain.com/solvr/).
- MindMeister (www.mindmeister.com)
Today I’d like to introduce you to Popplet (www.popplet.com). Popplet is a free online easy to use mind mapping tool. It does just one thing, mind mapping, but does it really well.
A single unit of a Popplet project is called a popple. Each popple can contain text, a drawing or sketch, and a picture or video. Altering the size of a popple is only a matter of pinching the edges of the box together or spreading them apart. To connect thought boxes just tap the small circle that is next to each box. Give it a try, register at www.popplet.com and play with this amazing tool.
For more information please visit the following links:
- Video Tutorial: http://goo.gl/LKv9Fd
- How-to Tutorial with Screenshots: http://goo.gl/t7hWAz
- Popplet Blog: http://goo.gl/7Ss8c9
The best thing about Popplet is that it allows EAL instructors to use brainstorming and mind mapping online. Yay! You can work with your learners on one project collaboratively in real time! Or you can prepare some activities and let your students work on them on their own.
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Start your next EAL class with a Popplet icebreaking activity: ask your learners to name 5 countries they would like to visit, 5 things they are afraid of, 5 things they shouldn’t say to the boss… anything! Add images to make the activity even more fun!
Image retrieved from www.naldzgraphics.net
Want to activate learners’ prior knowledge before introducing a new topic? – No problem, Popplet will help you with that! You can design engaging pre-reading and pre-listening activities. Ask your learners to describe a picture related to the text and answer Five Ws (Who? What? When? Where? Why?)
Image retrieved from www.lsuagcenter.com
Embed a video and you will get a challenging while-listening activity. For example, ask your learner to type in interview do’s and don’ts while watching a video about job interview tips.
Popplet will help you to initiate post-reading or post-listening discussions: ask your learners to brainstorm problem solutions or predict further events. Do some collaborative storytelling!
Popplet is a great tool to work on essay planning skills or to discuss the paragraph structure. Prepare a “hamburger” template and let your learners fill it in.
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And don’t forget about vocabulary: brainstorm synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms; match words with pictures; write half-dictations (when your learner is supposed to complete a sentence with his own ideas), etc.
To sum up, ways of using Popplet for EAL teaching/learning are endless! Everything depends on your learner’s needs, CLB level and … your imagination!
Thank you and see you online!