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Running head: PREPPING IN THE WRITING PROCESS: MIND MAPPING AS AN EFFECTIVE 1

PREWRITING STRATEGY

Prepping in the Writing Process: Mind Mapping as an Effective Prewriting Strategy

Emily Hay

Manhattan College
Running head: PREPPING IN THE WRITING PROCESS: MIND MAPPING AS AN EFFECTIVE 2
PREWRITING STRATEGY

Abstract

This paper examines the improvements made in the writing skills of one student after

they used mind maps as a prewriting strategy. This project was conducted during an afterschool

tutoring program at Manhattan College. The student was tutored on an induvial basis, in which

most tutoring sessions were allocated for instructional aid in the ELA content area. The student

lacks self-regulated preparation before writing and this consequentially effects his ability to

consistently write with coherence and clarity. The objective of this action research paper is to

ascertain the effectiveness of mind mapping as a prewriting strategy in enhancing the writing

abilities of a single student. For this project, the student was instructed in how to use the mind

map strategy before writing short responses. After a week of guided practice, the student created

mind maps independently for the following four weeks. The student used these mind maps to

organize ideas during the brainstorming process before completing short responses.

Significantly, mind mapping proved beneficial to the quality of the student’s written responses.

Keywords: mind map, graphic organizer, brainstorming, writing process


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PREWRITING STRATEGY

Introduction/Research Question

As students advance in their learning careers, they are tasked with completing writing

assignments at increased rigor and length. Academic writing is an involved process, a process

that requires students to develop effective and coherent writing skills as tool for academic

success. During my experience in early adolescent ELA classrooms, I found students are

disengaged and, at times, overwhelmed by writing research and argumentative essays. Students

tend to focus on including the mandated essay components. This means that students are

primarily concerned with the final written product and not the writing process. After observing

this, I decided to research the effects that prewriting strategies have on improving writing skills.

Background/Statement of the Problem/Significance of the Problem

In today’s classroom, effective communication through writing is a necessary academic

skill. Over the course of this semester I have been tutoring a thirteen-year-old boy, Max, in

reading and writing, and I began to see a consistent inhibition which effected Max’s writing

abilities. Max would avoid planning, outlining, or organizing his thoughts before any writing

task. Max also struggles with retaining information and generally forgets the purpose of the

writing assignment as he undergoes the writing process. When students don’t engage with

prewriting techniques, they lose out on a critical opportunity to comprehend what they are

writing about before they begin writing. The prewriting strategy called mind mapping allows

students to visually display multiple connections made when thinking about a topic. Students

start with a main idea and establish associations by branching out lines to other related ideas.

Mind mapping offers a metacognitive process where students can think about what ideas they are

connecting, along with the possible patterns and meanings that might exist as well. The mind

mapping strategy could help students with organizing initial thoughts, generating new ideas, and
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

instill a sense of confidence in brainstorming and planning before completing a writing task. By

supporting students through instruction in the prewriting phase, teachers can prepare students for

the academic future.

Literature Review

Beena Vijayavasalan (2016) discusses what resulted, in terms of essay writing skills,

from the utilization of the mind mapping strategy with undergraduate students at Abu Dhabi

University. He was concerned with the quality of essay writing in higher education, and

specifically how brainstorming strategies can offer a platform for student’s to more efficiently

begin the writing process. The study set out to ascertain the outcome of mind maps in essay

writing and “if and how mind maps enhance the ability to write well-meaning essays” (139).

Based on data collected from a researcher-designed questionnaire, Vijayavasalan studied 151

undergraduate students partaking in General Education Program. Vijayavasalan found that

groups of students introduced to the mind mapping prewriting strategy demonstrated higher

quality writing in comparison to groups of students who did not create mind maps as a prewriting

strategy to brainstorm. The quality of students’ writing was judged on their ability to produce

“logical and coherent essays” (148). The results indicated to me that it would be beneficial, even

if only yielding minimal improvement, to introduce Max to the mind mapping strategy.

Al-Zyoud, Al Jamal, and Baniabdelrahman (2017) inspected the possible influence that

the mind map strategy has on student’s writing performance when implemented before several

writing tasks. They proposed that the use of the mind mapping strategy would support students

as they develop their thinking and organize their thoughts by creating the graphic organizer

before writing. The researchers studied 40 male students in the eleventh grade who attended Al

Hashymia School, an all-boy school in Zarqa, and relied on qualitative data to determine if there
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

was any “statistically significant differences” contingent on usage of the mind mapping strategy.

For the study, students were separated into two groups, an experimental group of 20 students and

a control group with 20 students. Students in the experimental group were taught the mind

mapping strategy, and then completed writing performance activities (paragraph and essay

writing) by using the mind mapping strategy to brainstorm and plan during the pre-writing phase.

The control group wrote about similar topics in their essays and paragraphs but were instructed

under the “conventional method” (284). The researchers conducted a timed pre-test and post-test

to analyze the performance differences. The results of the study show that students in the

experimental group could deepen their engagement with the writing process by organizing their

ideas, activating their prior knowledge on the essay topic, and making visual connection, which

ultimately developed their writing performance. Like these students, Max doesn’t spend time

organizing his ideas. This study demonstrated to me how the mind map strategy would provide a

medium for Max to comprehensively generate and conceive ideas.

Todd H. Sundeen (2012) examined the effects of using mind mapping, under direct

instruction, as an organizational tool for students during the prewriting phase. The goal of the

research was to form a better understanding of the impact that directly teaching prewriting

strategies has on improving the overall quality of written works produced by secondary students

with learning disabilities. Sundeen conducted action research and studied the corresponding

effects of introducing and teaching the mind mapping strategy at staggering intervals to three

different groups--consisting of 4 students in groups A and B, and 3 students in group C. Data

was collected during a pre-test, before the intervention phase, and again after the completion of

the post-intervention phase. Sundeen relied on an analysis of students’ daily writing scores and

interviews with teachers and students in order to gauge how students’ writing quality improved.
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

Overall, results indicate that providing direct instruction for the mind mapping strategy “may

benefit students with learning disabilities” and support their performance throughout the writing

process (30). After reviewing this study, it became clear that my one-on-one tutoring sessions

with Max would lend themselves to the process of direction instruction. I would be able to

explicitly show Max the mind map strategy and observe his independent performance.

Method
Project Goals and Objectives

The primary objective for this action research project was for Max to independently

create mind maps to improve his writing performance. Max and I met once a week for forty-five

minutes. During this time, I assessed Max’s writing performance by implementing the mind

mapping strategy before assigning writing tasks for him to complete. The tasks included writing

paragraphs and short responses.

Procedure
For this project, I allocated five tutoring sessions with Max to conduct observations.

There was one tutoring session that Max did not attend, and one additional tutoring session was

used to interview Max. On the first day of tutoring, I assessed Max’s writing abilities by

collecting a few samples such as DoNow’s and Exit Slips which Max had written in class. Max

had initially been brought to the tutoring program after consistently struggling with reading and

writing in his ELA courses. Max was currently working on a book report for his eight grade

Literature class. On the first day of the tutoring, I asked Max to talk about the book he was

reading, which was the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. For a few minutes, Max discussed what he liked

about the book and why. After, I asked Max to write a description of what the book was about.
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

Next, Max and I reviewed the prewriting strategy mind mapping. I explained to Max that

the mind mapping technique would help him organize his thoughts and plan his ideas before

beginning to write. For four tutoring sessions, Max would use the mind mapping strategy to

brainstorm and then write a paragraph based on the assigned prompt. Prompts were open ended

and included tasks like writing a review of a book and describing what Manhattan College

represents. During the sixth tutoring session, I collected several of the mind maps and writing

responses. Additionally, I conducted a brief interview with Max to discern how he felt about

using the mind map strategy.

Results

Over the period of five tutoring sessions, Max completed four mind maps and five

written responses. Throughout the proceeding tutoring sessions, Max’s mind maps exhibited an

overall improvement. A clear and comparative difference can be discerned in Figure 1 and

Figure 2. The mind map in Figure 1, which Max completed in week 1 of observations, contains

less interconnected branches than the mind map in figure 2. By week 3, as shown in Figure 2,

Max completed the mind map in a more comprehensive fashion. The mind map in Figure 2

demonstrates a more substantial product and therefore indicates Max’s brainstorming process.

Although the mind map in Figure 2 contains less visual icons/graphics than the mind map

featured in Figure 1, the amount of details in the content and connections between ideas

improved. Furthermore, the ideas that Max generated were notably more complex. In Figure 2,

this is observable in the interconnection Max branched in-between more general ideas. An

example of this appears when Max writes that “it never happened,” which branches off from the

word “fiction.”
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

Figure 1. Figure 2.
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

The increased frequency of mind map usage correlated to an increase in the quality and

coherence of Max’s writing performance. Max’s third writing task, featured in Figure 3,

demonstrates a stronger level of organization and cohesion than what was initially observed in

the quality of his writing. Specifically, Max utilized ideas directly from his mind map when

constructing his writing task for

that week, which was a short book

review. Additionally, this writing

assignment showed an overall

coherence between sentences,

which effectively made the

paragraph more comprehensive

than what was observed in Max’s

initial writing performance.

Furthermore, the connections that

Max made between his ideas are

presented more logically here.


Figure 3.
Whereas before, Max struggled to

formulate relevance and unity between the ideas discussed in his writing. The writing sample

featured in Figure 3 is efficiently detailed and evince the improvement made in Max’s writing

performance. Max acknowledged in the subsequent interview the he felt more confident to begin

writing after he had organized his ideas beforehand. When asked about how he thought the mind

mapping strategy helped his writing skills, Max indicated that having the mind map to refer to
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

helped him remember what he was writing about. The graphic organizer appears to provide

preliminary support for Max during the writing process.

Limitations

This study contains limitations that should be discerned prior to examining the procedure

and concluding results. Firstly, the research was conducted during several tutoring sessions

outside of school, which allowed for a controlled setting. Secondly, there was only one

participant, Max, which provides limited, if not minimal, results for analysis. Additionally, Max

sometimes misplaced his writing assignments and mind maps, rendering an obstruction to results

and loss of significant data. Finally, Max was asked to develop written paragraphs, which does

not lend itself to an analysis of how Max would perform when completing larger performance

tasks such as essay composition.

Conclusion

The mind mapping strategy proved beneficial to Max’s writing performance. By the fifth

tutoring session, Max was constructing meaningful sentences with a lot more ease. Overall, Max

was successful in organizing his ideas with the mind map. This prewriting strategy proved to be

helpful in helping Max clearly communicate his ideas into written expression. Although Max

began adding more details and making more connections when creating mind maps, he struggled

with creating visual images to align with or reflect his ideas. As a graphic organizer, mind maps

combine graphics with words, and this helps transport the ideas in students heads onto paper. If

the study were too have continued, I would have introduced Max to an online computer

application that generates mind maps. In a subsequent action research project, I would collect

more writing samples to have more data for comparison. Additionally, I would have Max use the
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

online mind map application to facilitate the creation of graphics along with the words he

brainstorms.
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PREWRITING STRATEGY

References

Al-Zyoud, A., Al Jamal, D., & Baniabdelrahman, A. (2017). Mind Mapping and Students' Writing

Performance. Arab World English Journal,8(4), 280-291.

Sundeen, T. H. (2012). Explicit Prewriting Instruction: Effect on Writing Quality of Adolescents with

Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal,18(1), 23-33.

Vijayavalsalan, E. (2016). Mind Mapping as a Strategy for Enhancing Essay Writing Skills. The New

Educational Review,45(3), 137-150.