Concept Mapping


Eugene Palatulan

Marble Hill High School for International Studies, Bronx


Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2009



Subject: Living Environment (Biology)

55 minute class period


Note to Teacher:

Concept maps are a great tool to assess what students already know about a topic as well as what they have learned. In many ways, concept maps can be used at different points of a lesson or even a unit. Emphasis must be placed in the linking terms or the connections between concepts. Teachers should not settle with students merely connecting related concepts with a line but must also direct students to clearly define the link between the two concepts. When students properly identify the connections, you can confidently assess learning. Inversely, when students struggle to define these connections, other interventions must be taken to scaffold their learning.


The following lesson can be used for a number of different topics in biology as well as different subjects in science. To maximize success in terms of aligning the lesson to standards, teachers should download their respective core NYS core curriculum for each subject and use the sections where key ideas are found to organize the many concepts.

Living environment core curriculum:

Chemistry core curriculum:



In this lesson, there are two examples of how the lesson can be applied to Chemistry and Physics. Since I am not a certified Chemistry/Physics teacher, I tried my best to string together some key ideas surrounding a major topic. In looking for key ideas and concepts I found it really helpful for Chemistry to look into pp. 38-59 (Appendix B) of the core curriculum and for Physics pp. 37-42 (Appendix D).


Lastly, do not be discouraged if your students do not enthusiastically receive concept mapping. It is a difficult task for students to accomplish but the most important thing is your introduction of concept mapping is lively, fun and relevant to the students’ lives. The Do Now is a crucial part in introducing concept map. If you can think of a better and more relevant way of introducing concept maps, it would make a significant difference.



DNA review + introduction of concept mapping

Essential Questions:

1: How is DNA organized?

2: How do we review the concepts related to DNA?

3: How do we assess our own learning and understanding of DNA?

Goal(s) of the Day: 

1)      Students will be able introduced to concept maps and its power to review concepts

2)      Students will learn how to compare different DNA based on its size

3)      Students assess themselves and each other in their review of the key ideas in DNA   

Order of events in class, time allocated per event, prep work needed, materials needed

*Aim question can be content focused (DNA) or skill focused (concept mapping) or both

Aim: How do we assess our understanding of DNA by concept mapping review?


DO NOW: List 5 (or more) things, people, places, or events that matter to you.

*Depending on the length of the class period and the attention span of students, DO NOW can be expanded to 10 or 15 but a minimum of 5 is necessary for the next activity

*Introduce the next activity All About YOU and emphasize the importance of defining the connection

*When most students are finished asked a volunteer to share their initial map of All About YOU. I would suggest to call on your “interesting” student, every class has one.


TASK: All about YOU.





*After a couple of volunteers sharing their life maps (student interest can be greatly heightened when teachers share their own life map), you can go into the introduction of concept mapping as a great review of how concepts can be related and have a deep connection. Mention that if I took away the linking words between you and the tings surrounding your name, it would not confer any special or important meaning and the best I can do is to guess what the connection is. Defining the connection is of vital importance!


*Task IIA can be completed in a large 11 x 17 white  paper or with a 8 x 14 paper. You may also wish to make into a group work in your discretion. I would suggest using chart paper (less expensive) or large post it paper (more expensive) and colored markers. The best part about using the large post it paper is you can paste them over the walls and is easier for the end of class gallery walk.


Task IIA: Similar to the concept map you created about yourself, you can also create a concept map that will test your knowledge on how well you know a particular topic. Remember, the most important part of a concept map is the connections you make between the concepts.

Using the following terms, create a concept map around the topic of DNA.

Nucleotides                                                              A. U, C, G

Restriction Enzyme                                                   Protein

Sugar                                                                       Transcription

Phosphate                                                                Translation

Base (Nitrogenous)                                                   Replication

A, T, C, G                                                                Chromosomes

RNA                                                                        Genes

Double Helix                                                             Heredity


Feel free to add concepts that you think should be included.


*For students who finished earlier than others, offer this challenge for extra credit:


Task IIB: If time permits and you feel like challenging yourself, try to build a concept map about CELLS. This time you are in charge of coming up with the key concepts and connections. (Hint: Organelles, life processes associated wih organelles, etc.)


*When all the groups are done with their concept maps, give each student a copy of the concept map rubric. Have students evaluate their own concept map and once they are done have them post up their concept maps and ask students to walk around and constructively compare their maps with another person or groups’ concept map.



NYS Living Environment Core Curriculum Standards:


2.1f In all organisms, the coded instructions for specifying the characteristics of the organism are carried in DNA, a large molecule formed from subunits arranged in a sequence with bases of four kinds (represented by A, G, C, and T). The chemical and structural properties of DNA are the basis for how the genetic information that underlies heredity is both encoded in genes (as a string of molecular “bases”) and replicated by means of a template.


2.1h Genes are segments of DNA molecules. Any alteration of the DNA sequence is a mutation. Usually, an altered gene will be passed on to every cell that develops from it.


2.2e Knowledge of genetics is making possible new fields of health care; for example, finding genes, which may have mutations that can cause disease will aid in the development of preventive measures to fight disease. Substances, such as hormones and enzymes, from genetically engineered organisms may reduce the cost and side effects of replacing missing body chemicals.