Open Mind Diagram

UDL 2.5 UDL 4.1

Open Mind Diagram is a summarizing strategy in which students visually display information about a particular topic by adding images, symbols, words, quotes, or other phrases into a blank outline of a head (e.g., the head embodies thoughts about a topic, character, or historical figure). A teacher first decides the parameters of the Open Mind Diagram activity (e.g., conducting in small groups of 4-5 students, partnerships, or independently). Next, the expectations are introduced (e.g., students must add 3 images/symbols, 4 related words or phrases, 2 citations or quotes into each diagram). The teacher also frames this activity as a “planning step” before creating a summary or extended response about the topic, in order to reduce pressure and help students pre-write ideas to reflect on later. While other summarizing strategies allow students to bulk together information about a topic, Open Mind Diagram differs in that it helps students retain instructional content through visually brainstormed representations.

Implementation Tips

Open Mind Diagram Templates
Print or create pre-made empty head outline templates for an Open Mind Diagram activity, similar to this [[ | forward facing example ]], or this [[ | profile example ]] to provide a consistent outline for students that is not too large or too small.
Pre-teach the difference between related words or phrases and citations or quotations that reflect a topic, character, or historical figure. Demonstrate how students can cite or quote a text in relation to a given topic of interest.
Introducing Open Mind Diagram
Introduce expectations, such as, “Today, you will create an Open Mind Diagram. First, you will include three images or symbols. Next, around those images, add four related words or phrases. Lastly, anywhere on the diagram, include two citations or quotes that reflect the topic.”
Model creating an Open Mind Diagram so that students have a visual reference while creating their own diagrams. Use “think alouds” to model decision-making (e.g., “Maybe I’ll use images of farming, bartering, and the Ziggurats to represent Mesopotamia because…”).
Incorporating Technology
Allow students to incorporate technology while creating Open Mind Diagrams (e.g., typing words/phrases, citations, quotes, or finding images/symbols to print) in order to support students that feel less confident with writing and drawing, while still adding valuable information and imagery.
Adjust the expectations of the activity to accommodate individualized student needs, or to adapt the strategy for lower grades. Ask students to add fewer images or statements, or require students to only use imagery and verbally express “why” those those images were chosen.
Building a Routine
Apply this strategy across all content areas to engage students in discussing rigorous content (e.g., main character or a historical figure, time period, scientific concept). Apply the strategy in small groups or partnerships. Over time, diagrams can be created independently with more confidence.
Using Open Mind Diagram For Assessment
Use Open Mind Diagram as an assessment of student understanding to provide an alternative to traditional “pen and paper” exams or written responses. Allow students to incorporate imagery and research information further to obtain value input for diagrams.


Character Analysis
After reading [[ | Fahrenheit 451 ]] by Ray Bradbury, a teacher has students create Open Mind Diagrams to analyze the main character, Montag, and generate ideas for an upcoming discussion. Small groups are formed (e.g., 4-5 students per group) and then templates of a blank head outline are distributed. The teacher reiterates the directions and expectations (e.g., “First, you will need to include 3 images or symbols. Next, around those images, brainstorm and add 4 related words/phrases. Lastly, anywhere on the diagram, include 2 citations or quotes that reflect the topic.”). After, students converse and brainstorm together, then add insights onto the diagram, similar to this [[ | group’s example ]]. After, groups share their diagrams to compare and contrast reflections.
Open Mind Diagram For Assessment
At the end of a biography unit, a teacher asks students to independently create Open Mind Diagrams to represent an important figure that they read about. Students choose a figure (e.g., former president, famous athlete, inventor, historical figure). The teacher explains, “For this activity, you will work independently. You will have time to plan your ideas, and will be given the option to draw or print images, and write or type added text.”). Over several days, the teacher provides students with time to work on their diagrams (e.g., time for brainstorming, drawing, writing, shared computer access). While students create diagrams, the teacher circulates to monitor and assess student understanding. Click [[ | here ]] for a student’s sample of an Open Mind Diagram on Benjamin Franklin.

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