Observing students in class writing down the new vocabulary that comes up, more often than not, a student will write down the new word with the translation in his own language next to it. Of course, writing things down is necessary if you want to review later. But at the end of one lesson, the student has a couple of pages of new words that are completely at random – apple, happy, gun, gloat, keyboard, violet, etc. Impossible to retain a list of words like this. Even if you tried to memorise them, the fact that they are irrelevant to each other makes it difficult to remember them. So, what can we do as educators? My answer is: A LOT.
Stimulating students to use mind maps to make "vocabulary networks" is a better way to help them retain new vocabulary items. This involves writing a single word, your theme, in the centre of the page and linking words that go with it. Let's take "theft" as an example. Draw a line from the word "theft" to a new bubble with a description in it - "Theft from a bank" - then write the word "robbery" next to it. Then the word for the person, "robber", the verb, "to rob".
You can continue to fill the page with "shoplifting", "mugging", "pick pocketing", "burglary", etc, noting all the related words you can think of. Use a dictionary to find the words in the language you are studying. Now you have a page of words that are relevant to each other, thus making them easier to recall when you are talking in your new language. Mind-maps are even more effective if you add little drawings and lots of colour - your brain likes to be entertained!
A very nice tool to get your students started is available at www.text2mindmap.com. This site is a web application that converts text to mind map. You simple input your list of keywords and Text to Mind Map (Text2MindMap) will draw a mind map for you.
Have a try! I highly recommend using it for review classes before final tests!