' clairefy: How Mind-Mapping Notes Encourages My Love of Learning

How Mind-Mapping Notes Encourages My Love of Learning

11.23.2017


This year, I've found an outlet for my jumbled thoughts in note-taking. As a student, my notes are my greatest asset; they keep me involved in class and ground my study. My notes also reflect my growth; two of my 2017 resolutions, remaining organized and aiming to absorb material rather than briefly memorize and forget it, find a host in my quick jots and long branches.

I used to take my notes in a linear fashion: heading, bullet, sub-bullet, repeat. I would vary pen colors or indentations to distinguish new topics, but my format remained the same. From a grades standpoint, this traditional tactic might appear like it functioned well enough for me. The numbers stacked neatly, admittedly with some close calls and stressful stands, but I grew more bored with my classes as I drew elaborate vines in the margins of my papers, memorized information for tests the night before and immediately forgot it, and sought completion rather than new understanding.

I recognized both that I was retaining little information and that my classes would become more rigorous sophomore year. So I combined my penchant for drawing vines and amateur cursive with a reinvigorated ambition to learn (thanks to my teachers and engaging classes that year) to develop a note-taking style that keeps me involved in class and allows me to more review information: mind-mapping.

What is mind-mapping? 


For me, it's the most effective method of planning and note-taking by placing an important idea in the center of the page and writing the notes around the title, almost in a circular fashion. This provides me with an easy way to make connections between the main idea and points and even among the points.

Initially, I wrote my maps, cramped, in the edges of wide-ruled notebooks, never having enough room to fit a lesson on a page. Seeing my notebook this year, my biology teacher recommended I start taking notes in a sketchbook. Excited, I switched to paper without lines and tested my new host's boundaries.


Online, I've seen some students take their notes in linear form initially, then re-write them as a mind-map. For my schedule and studying preferences, I opt to take notes in mind-map form in class or while reading the textbook-- what I walk away with remains my prime set of notes.


Mind-mapping has also helped me outline essays and note plans for extracurricular activities. I particularly like to write out information for Model UN, debate, and musical production team.

  


I typically use cursive headings to satisfy my urge to doodle, but I'd recommend whatever style is most efficient and comfortable for you. For me, taking notes this way has become second-nature; my pencil, not always neat, communicates my thoughts. Ultimately, though, notes must please function before appearance.

And now, to review

Taking notes represents just the first step of my new review and preparation process that I feel better prepares me for future challenges. 


I take my notes in black and white, and pencil eliminates my mistakes. Color emerges in my review sessions. The first time I look over my notes outside of class, I used colored highlighters to delineate important information. 

After adding color to my notes, I make flashcard decks based on the unit. I cut my index cards in half to save space and make them more easily portable.


Some have terms on the front and definitions on the back, but others feature a picture or diagram on the front with a corresponding explanation or no words at all if the mini-map is sufficient. I am not always diligent about studying early, but I try to make my cards a couple days before the exam, so I can briefly glance at terms in advance and prevent ineffective night-before cram sessions. 

The day before the exam, or two days before if I am ahead, I draw a giant mind-map of all the material on a test to make connections and cement my understanding of the material. I try to make time to draw at least two of these maps the day before. I use my flashcards as a word bank. 

Previously, I drew these maps across several pages of notebook paper, attached together. Now, though, during a study hall or after extracurricular activities, some of my teachers (thank you!) allow me to borrow their boards for these more intensive reviews.


Sometimes, some of my peers will join me, and mind-mapping creates a challenging and interactive activity to share with friends. 

I love writing on white boards because they are literal blank slates, broad and vast and an opportunity for creativity.

I'm rather awful at drawing, so I like to think of my notes as my art. 

Each notebook page is a new canvas, waiting to be painted with connections in science and government and language.

Transitioning from linear note-taking to more broad mind-mapping allows me to learn more and thoroughly glean material, present ideas in a way that works for me, and further facilitate my love of learning.

22 comments :

  1. This is absolutely INCREDIBLE. Your notes truly look like art!! I think it's amazing you can make learning and memorising into something really pretty as well as useful. :D

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    1. Thank you so much Cait! Note-taking and mind-mapping have become something I actually enjoy doing and I believe it helps me better retain information.

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  2. Your writing is so gorgeous (and I just checked out your Insta--and OMG, your pics are totally gorgeous! SO clean & bright!) I totally see the benefits of mind-mapping. It's even been recommended to me for writing--but I could just never do it. I'm pretty impatient, and I think you need lot of time and patience to be able to do it RIGHT, you know? When I plot/draft my books, I adore handwriting notes and jotting down ideas, but that's honestly as far as I'll go, haha! So I commend you for doing this--I can totally see how it helps.

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    1. Thanks Kara! I think whatever works best for you is the best method to use. Mind-mapping makes it easier for me to understand and plan material, but I understand the patience-- if jotting notes for your books is most effective for you, go for it!

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  3. Welcome back, Claire! Your notes look gorgeous, I have entered university this year and one of my classes really encourages mind maps for our learning. While keeping up with my fast-talking professor has me in the habit of taking really messy, traditional linear notes, I love to rewrite them and use mind mapping!

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    1. Thanks Emily! I'm glad this strategy has been helpful for you! And wow, I didn't realize you'd started university already. Congratulations and good luck!

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  4. Thank you for sharing this Claire. You've turned note taking into an art :)

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  5. This is really interesting and your mind maps look incredible! I've started taking my notes in a dotted pad instead of a lined one - I find it so much less restrictive for some reason.
    Great post!

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    1. Thank you! And I'm glad you've found a notebook that works best for you!

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  6. Hello Claire!
    I gotta say- these are the most beautiful notes that I have ever seen. Glad to hear that you found a way to take notes effectively :)

    Sophie

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  7. I absolutely adore this idea! I'm long past the days of school and note taking, but maybe I could convince my kids to try this out!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Thank you Nicole! I hope your kids enjoy the activity!

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  8. I really like mind mapping for my English assignments! They're mostly essays and I use the maps to figure out the connections between ideas and how I can best organize them into an essay. For more sciencey things, I've been sticking to bullet points (my programs are Biology and English) but I've been thinking of experimenting a little. Lovely post, Claire!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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    1. Yes for mind-mapping English assignments! I was surprised to find that biology is a subject that really lends itself to mind-mapping for me. A lot of ideas about different specific structures can connect back to broader structures or general concepts and noting them in that way has helped me better connect them.

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  9. Your notes are truly beautiful, Claire! I must admit I have not used the mind mapping strategy before to study, but I think I really must remedy that this year. I'm so glad you've found something that works for you -- & the fact that it's practically art on its own merit really doesn't hurt either. ;) Thank you so much for sharing with us! xo

    Topaz (Six Impossible Things)

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    1. Thanks Topaz! I hope you enjoy mind-mapping!

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  10. WOW!! Claire this is so great... its perfect for people whose minds are more graphic similar to how artists use a bullet journal except you use it for actual information!! I'm so impressed... I'm sure it helps you to retain the information even after the test, or at least a lot of it.

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    1. For sure! I turned to mind-mapping as a way to retain more information after learning it, instead of just memorizing for the test and forgetting it later. Thanks Dani!

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  11. Excellent post, Claire. I always loved your notes in English. Not only did they show amazing insight, but they were beautiful to look at and helped me see how you were making connections. You have an excellent blog-- so glad you are writing in a public forum. You have great ideas to share--and excellent design!

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