top of page

English Language Learning

We recommend that you view this short documentary video, “Language of the Mind”, as an entry point into the array of research, articles, and book chapters in this section. Key to the insights of many of these practitioners and researchers is that the language of cognition is a foundation, as well as a bridge, for students to learn a new language. Remarkable results are referenced here and the implications for using Thinking Maps as a visual language for “language learning” is surfaced in many different settings.

Language of the Mind

The documentary The Language of the Mind shares the remarkable story how visual tools — Thinking Maps — have changed how students in the New Rochelle School District (New York, USA) are thinking and contributing to the overall classroom discourse, regardless of English proficiency.

Aming High, A Countywide Commitment to Close the Achievement Gap for English Learners

By Stephanie Holzman, principal Roosevelt Elementary School, California, United States.

Click on the PDF icon to download

The topic of this brief is Thinking Maps. As described by Stefanie Holzman, principal of Roosevelt Elementary School in Long Beach, the schoolwide use of Thinking Maps can effectively raise student achievement in schools with diverse student populations.

Ms. Holzman believes that Thinking Maps are the most important and impactful school improvement effort her school has implemented—and as you’ll read in this brief, they have seen real success.

Thinking Maps are a tool that may help us close the achievement gap. Although the use of Thinking Maps is not a “silver bullet” for raising EL achievement, it does align with current research.

The Effect of a Cognitive Model, Thinking Maps, on the Academic Language Development of
English Language Learners

By Estrella López, St. John Fisher College, New York, United States. 2011

This study describes how teachers of two urban suburban schools with large numbers of English language learners (ELLs) used Thinking Maps as a cognitive model resulting in student’s improved academic language development. Teachers used Thinking Maps that included a common cognitive language that transcended grade levels and disciplines.

An antecedent condition for these results was school-wide professional development of teachers’ expertise using Thinking Maps. Teachers’ anecdotal reports and samples of student work gave evidence to this researcher’s hypothesis: participating schools that implemented cognitive visual tools improved the academic language development of all their students.

A whole-school approach for teachers utilizing a common, cognitive tool proved significant in supporting

ELLs, one of the most vulnerable sub-groups of students pressured to perform by the challenges of Common Core Standards.

The study concludes that additional research (e.g., longitudinal studies, mixed populations etc.) needs to be conducted on the efficacy of Thinking Maps to improve academic achievement among ELLs, as well as students with special needs and struggling learners.

Click on the PDF icon to download

Leveling the Playing Field: The Efficacy of Thinking Maps on English Language Learner Students’ Writing

By Jamal Cooks and Anita Sunseri, San Francisco State University, The Catesol Journal 25.1. 2013/2014

Many students, especially English language learners (ELLs), struggle with writing expository texts. This study examined the impact of several writing strategies on ELLs’ writing skills, including prewriting strategies and scaffolding strategies in- herent in the Thinking Maps (TM) program. The purpose of the study was to see if ELLs were able to use these strategies to express their ideas more effectively in compositions in a more organized way. The participants were 8 students in grades 3 through 5 in the South Bay School District. The students were participating in an after-school writing class 2 days a week for 6 months. As a result, the overall average of students’ writing scores in the areas of “Ideas” and “Organization” increased. 

Click on the PDF icon to download the article on The Catesol Journal

Click on the PDF icon to download Anita Sunseri's Dissertation "The Impact of Thinking Maps on Elementary Students' Expository Texts

Student Successes With Thinking Maps®
David Hyerle and Larry Alper coeditors Corwin Press, Second Edition, January 2011, Thousand Oaks, California

Click on the PDF icon to download

Chapter 11: A First Language for Thinking in a Multiligual School
Stephanie R. Holzman, Ed.D.

My experiences from seeing the maps in use in other schools in Long Beach Unified School District made me believe that our students would learn the maps, and the result of all this would be higher academic achievement. This did happen. The numbers are in from the standardized tests given in California. The state has a very complicated formula to determine expected growth. Roosevelt school was expected to gain 11 points overall. We exceeded that goal with a 60 point gain. Not only did the school as a single unit make growth, but so did our significant subgroups: Hispanic students, English language learners, and students of low socioeconomic status as determined by free lunches.

Using Thinking Maps® to Promote Critical Thinking, Student Autonomy and Metacognition.

By Jeanne Canon, Jennifer Jagde and Mari Doyle, Eastchester School District, New York, United States.

Click on the PDF icon to download

This action research reports provides an overview of how Thinking Maps improve students' capacities to reflect on their own learning, language use, and cognitive processes.  The slide show presents actual student work performed after differentiated activities for language development.  The samples of student work are taken from across disciplines and show how students move from acaemic language development to higher order thinking, autonomy, and metacognitive behavior.

bottom of page