Monthly Archives: May 2014

Why Concept Mapping?

Ashley Weinard, Educator and NCMA teacher workshops are built around the practice of concept mapping. Remember those black and white graphic organizers with spokes and arrows? We don’t use those. NCMA concept mapping is art based and designed to spur creative, critical, and collaborative thinking.

NCMA online tools and professional development programs focus on helping teachers build two key professional and life skills: visual literacy and making connections. After several years at the planning table with groups of teachers, NCMA educators learned that these particular skills enable teachers to be more successful at integrating the visual arts (and works of art) into classroom instruction. They also happen to be critical skills that you are charged with transferring to your students. Visual literacy and making connections support the Common Core’s focus on critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis.

Concept mapping is the perfect collaborative tool for exploring how ideas and concepts connect and expand. Starting with a visual image makes ideas flow more rapidly and opens up thinking. Works of art add a layer of depth and wonder that makes the brainstorming and group conversation even richer. Connections are found, ideas are created, and team trust is developed. As one teacher said, “When you synthesize it all together, it becomes this amazing thing that no one of us would have done just alone.”

Think this might be a good exercise for your planning team? Watch this video to see how to put it into action. If you would like additional support, contact the Big Picture team to set up a team workshop in your area. Or, create your own concept map at

Look closely. Discover connections. Be inspired to think and teach creatively.


Want more? Read our last post Why Concepts?

Why Concepts?



By Ashley Weinard, Educator

Have you ever tried to collaborate and discovered you have a hard time finding common ground? Does your colleague across the hall speak a different language from yours? It turns out vocabulary is one of the most common obstacles to collaboration.

Big Picture Concepts are designed to help educators find commonality across the table and within the disciplines. Take a step back from the topics you teach day to day, and consider what abstract concepts encompass your information.

Fractions = part to whole, order

Weather = environment, variation, cycle, force

American Revolution = power, change, time, place

Neighborhoods = interdependence, environment, impact

Plot = communication, order, perspective, conflict

Yes, volcanoes and character development are radically different topics. However, they both have to do with change and adaptation. If you start the conversation with the concepts you share, it will be easier to find opportunities for co-teaching and collaborative planning.

ArtNC lesson plans can be used as models for how to teach integrated content through concepts. In this lesson about North Carolina agriculture, students tackle the concepts of change, impact, perspective, and technology at once through a creative writing and art-making exercise.

Search to discover how all of the Big Picture concepts play out across the disciplines. You might find that your point of intersection lies in a work of art.