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Strategy #4: Using concept maps

A concept map is a specific type of graphic organizer, and while there are several types, most can be simply constructed with circles or squares that connect to one another and ultimately back to the main idea through graphic lines. These lines help students to determine the meaning as well as visualize connections between the main idea and supporting details. Concept maps can support struggling readers by helping them build off their prior knowledge and reflect on their understanding while reading. They are easy to construct and can be used across all content areas.

Again using a passage from Myers' psychology textbook, let's see how students can use a concept map to visually differentiate between main ideas and supporting details. First read this passage.

Detecting a weak stimulus, or signal, depends not only on the signal's strength (such as the hearing-test tone), but also on our psychological state--our experience, expectations, motivation, and alertness. Signal detection theory predicts when we will detect weak signals, measured as our ratio of "hits" to "false alarms." Signal detection theorists seek to understand why people respond differently to the same stimuli, and why the same person's reactions vary as circumstances change. Exhausted parents of a newborn will notice the faintest whimper from the cradle while failing to notice louder, unimportant sounds. Responsiveness also increases in a horror-filled wartime situation, where failure to detect an intruder may mean death. Mindful of many comrades' deaths, soldiers and police in Iraq probably become more likely to notice--and fire at--an almost imperceptible noise. With such heightened responsiveness come more false alarms, as when the American military fired on an approaching car that was rushing an Italian journalist to freedom, killing the Italian intelligence officer who had rescued her. In peacetime, when survival is not threatened, the same soldiers require a stronger signal before sensing danger (p. 199).