Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing


on 15/03/2015

Have you ever made vocabulary mind maps? I have used them so many times in teaching, brainstorming with learners to get them the necessary vocabulary tools and mind set for a topic. Aside from my wh-words technique, this seems to be a very useful strategy for breaking writer’s block, serving as a sort of meditation, although it doesn’t require getting rid of all thoughts, but it does relieve the stress of expectation. You can use it at work, when writing, with your children, anywhere, and it’s free.


For those of you who have tried it or taught it,  this will be revision material, but it never hurts to repeat useful exercises, unless you’re using weights heavier than your body can take and overdoing gym drills;). For those of you who haven’t tried it, and need to clear your thoughts, you might give it a chance and see the fog in your mind clear like mist on a spring morning.
Leave the problem that’s blocking your thoughts, making your heart beat just a bit too much and causing your palms to sweat. Take an empty piece of paper, or use a board if you have and like it, and grab anything to write with, preferably something you like and which is not about to run out of ink on you.


Write your key word in the centre. If you are writing a parenting guide on sleep-deprivation, you might write despair, insomnia, or just lack of sleep. Then close your eyes for a second and think only about that word. Let your pen jot down any word that comes to mind concerning that topic. Write as many words as you want, and don’t be a slave to word count, word form, font size or whether it’s a phrase or a single word. Jot down, doodle, dabble, risk, have fun, don’t censor yourself.  Give yourself an indefinite time window – if it’s a good day, the paper will be full in five minutes. If it’s a bad day, provoke yourself first by something that really triggers your mind; for instance, if I need to be infuriated, all I need is the word ‘politics’ in the centre; if I want to calm down, ‘spring’ will suffice. Then move on to your key word. Isn’t that better than hitting yourself on the head, gobbling up tons of chocolate or draining a kettle of coffee, thinking ‘I can’t do this’ all the time?


This will be good warm-up for your brain, and you will either start writing and solving your problem right away, or you will keep the paper for another day and use it. Sometimes I also do a follow-up, and use a thesaurus, adding synonyms to my own words for future reference and use in that particular text.
If you’re a teacher, this technique is just perfect for any topic you can think of, starting off with what your learners know, then adding and developing with what you want them to acquire and use on a higher level. If you’re a parent, this technique will help you decide on a problem and works even better if you do your brainstorming as a couple. Sometimes the brain tricks us, and the game-like feel of mind-mapping allows us to blurt out things we would normally be shy about, or even ideas we are unaware of. You would never believe the stuff my students let out during these activities, allowing me to understand them better and act accordingly.

As a parent, you may even apply this with your child, asking them to think of their own ‘punishment’ for a certain transgression, or, on a more positive note, asking them to give you reasons why they think they deserve a certain reward or present. It has even helped my son clear out some things after reading certain books for school and before delivering his report. It also lets you prepare presentations or speeches for work with less stress and with more flare.


Not selling any hot new inventions here or claiming to have discovered a never-before-used mind trick. Just sharing something that helps me on many levels, hoping it helps anybody else. How about giving it a try?


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