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Reverse Cycle Mind Maps

Amanda Everaert, Komazawa Junior College

Quick Guide

  • Key Words: EIKEN, speaking
  • Learner Maturity Level: High school and above
  • Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Activity Time: According to student needs
  • Materials: Paper and pens

Anyone who has prepared students for the EIKEN Level One interview, or any other kind of short speech, will be aware of the pitfalls facing Japanese learners. Some students have difficulty sticking to the topic, others struggle to develop their theme and either trail off into silence or resort to paraphrasing the same point over and over. Basic English speech structure—introduction, development of the main idea (with supporting evidence or examples), and conclusion—differs greatly from the Japanese speech form to which our students are accustomed.

Most teachers will be aware of the value of mind maps in addressing these problems. Sometimes, however, more is needed. I developed this adaptation of the basic mind map technique for a student preparing to take the EIKEN interview. Candidates are given a card containing four topics and have 1 minute to prepare a 2-minute talk on their chosen topic. My student was able to choose her topic quickly but had trouble organizing her ideas in the time available. While she understood the requirements at the conceptual level, she struggled to apply the process to her own talks. Looking for a way to give her easy practice in producing a well-structured speech, I came up with the following procedure.


Step 1: Introduce basic mind maps by choosing a simple topic and drawing the map, explaining the steps and showing the relationship between them with arrows and dashes. Cribb (2000) provides an excellent description of this process. Practice with a variety of topics, using the student's ideas, and guide her through the process until she becomes familiar with the structural elements and can take increasing control.

Step 2: Prepare a brief talk yourself without letting the student see your mind map. Have the student draw the map as you present the talk slowly. Check the result, drawing attention to structural errors: misused symbols, errors in notating logical relationships or developmental steps.

Step 3: When the student has developed some proficiency in Step 2, ask her to retell your talk in her own words from the map she has made while listening to you. It is worth spending plenty of time on this step, doing it with a variety of topics and later using it as a warm-up activity. The student gets practical experience in both constructing a mind map and using it to present a well-structured talk, without the burden of producing it herself from scratch.

Step 4: When you judge that the student has gained sufficient understanding of the developmental process and confidence in her own ability, let her choose a topic, draw the mind map, and give the talk. Allow plenty of time for preparation at first, decreasing it gradually to 1 minute as she builds confidence and skill.

Step 5: As the student gives her talk, do not look at her mind map, but draw it yourself as she did in Step 2 while listening to you. Be strictly faithful to what she says when notating logical development or relationships between points. Then let her compare her original map with yours. This will visually highlight problem areas such as cause-effect errors, missing or inappropriate discourse markers, lack of logical development, and repetition instead of supporting evidence or examples.


According to student needs and ability, these steps should be spread over several class periods, even several weeks, so that the student gains a solid understanding of and confidence in each step. With repeated practice the student will become so familiar with the structural development of English speeches that she will be able to draw and use her own mind maps quickly and easily. I found this process so successful with my own EIKEN student that from being able to do little but paraphrase the same point at first, she was soon able to give a very creditable 2-minute talk without making any notes at all. I developed this process with a private student, but it can easily be adapted for classes of students at a similar ability level. After teacher-led groundwork, students practice each step in pairs. In Step 2 students check each other's results. In Step 3, pairs retell the teacher's talk to each other then identify and discuss any differences. The teacher should monitor this carefully, identifying points needing further work with the full class. Steps 4 and 5 can also be practiced in pairs once students have developed sufficient skill in drawing accurate maps while listening to the teacher's talks.


Cribb, M. (2000). Mind Maps. The Language Teacher, 24(3), 8-9.

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