How To Implement


Implementing Thinking Maps School Wide

Thinking Maps professional development is designed to increase teacher and leadership effectiveness. A 1-3 year plan of action should be designed to address the specific yearly goals within a school or district improvement plan.

“If we wish to create a school where reform will be enduring, we need to ask: Is this a school where teachers can learn? Unless we create the conditions for teacher learning, every single reform we initiate, even if it looks like it is working at the beginning, will eventually erode and disappear.” -Lee Shulman, 2004


Our Step-by-Step Process

Click Here: Start with Step 1!

STEP 1 Planning the Implementation

  • Develop and communicate a plan of action
  • Design an implementation model

STEP 2 Introducing Thinking Maps

  • Conduct initial training (one 6-hour training or two 3-hour trainings)
  • Establish an 8-week introductory period

STEP 3 Follow-up Training

  • Conduct a follow-up focus training in person or through TMLC
  • Allow time for practice (2-3 weeks)
  • Share with colleagues

STEP 4 Continuous Assessment

  • Assess implementation and impact on student achievement
  • Plan continued implementation to address specific school-wide goals



Implementing Thinking Maps School Wide

STEP 1 Planning the Implementation

Contact Rep or TMI office

When you contact your Representative, he/she will guide you through the implementation process.

Plan of Action

Collaborate, design, and communicate a Plan of Action establishing sustainable implementation with your teacher-leaders, instructional coaches and other key decision makers.

Implementation Model

Design an Implementation Model.

Prior to the start of the school year, the principal, teacher-leaders, instructional coaches and other key decision makers build a Plan of Action for implementation, tailored to address specific students needs and a school’s improvement plan.


Implementing Thinking Maps School Wide

STEP 2 Introducing Thinking Maps

Initial Training

You may choose to participate in one 6-hour training or two 3-hour trainings.

Introductory Period

Begin the introductory period by teaching students the 8 Thinking Maps (8 weeks, one week per Map).

The Day One Training provides the foundation for all future work with Thinking Maps. A Language for Learning text is required for all participants. A Language for Leadership text is recommended for all school leaders. Before coming to the initial Day One training, teachers should have an awareness of Thinking Maps, and be familiar with the Plan of Action and the why, when, where and how of the training.
The Introductory Period is essential for teachers to practice integrating each Map into specific content areas and instruction strategies, and for students to develop ownership and independence. Teachers should be encouraged to collaborate and share their ideas in grade-level or departmental meetings, professional learning teams and large-group faculty meetings.


Implementing Thinking Maps School Wide

STEP 3 Follow-up Training

Teach Focus

Choose a Follow-up Focus based on your school improvement plan.


Allow time for practice (2-3 weeks recommended). Make sure trainers or consultants are available to support and encourage teachers.


Encourage teachers to share, discuss and analyze their applications with peers to enhance the effective use of Thinking Maps.

Follow-up is the heart of any successful implementation. Teachers need feedback and support as they add Thinking Maps to their repertoire of instructional strategies. Trained Trainers or TMI Consultants help support teachers as they design accurate and rigorous applications of Thinking Maps to teach their standards. Each session should focus specifically on a diagnosed concern or a school-wide emphasis for the year.
click here for step 4

Follow-Up Focuses

Follow-up Focuses

Differentiated Professional Development

Professional Development in Thinking Maps–via in-person consultation or through the online learning community (TMLC)–provide sessions tailored to the goals reflected in your strategic plans. Possible follow-up focuses are identified below.

Critical Thinking
  • Thinking Maps: A Language for Learning
  • TMLC Course 102: Guiding Questions
  • TMLC Course 103: The Frame of Reference
  • TMLC Course 201: Multiple Maps
  • Thinking Maps: A Language for Learning
  • TMLC Course 202: Taking Information Off The Map
  • TMLC Course 301: Academic Vocabulary
  • TMLC Course 302: Analyzing Complex Texts
Content Connections
  • Thinking Maps: A Language for Learning
  • TMLC Course: 304: Thinking Like A Mathematician
  • TMLC Courses embed examples from all content areas
Instructional Strategies
  • Thinking Maps: A Language for Learning
  • TMLC Course 201: Multiple Maps
  • TMLC Module 102C: Enhancing Maps with Color

Customer Stories

See what implementation looks like.


Castle Hills Elementary, TX

The Story

Castle Hills Team pictureThe spark that ignited the flame for Castle Hills Elementary (Castle Hills) to embrace Thinking Maps was a Lewisville ISD (LISD) initiative that all campuses implement Thinking Maps. The implementation of Thinking Maps supports the district’s vision that “all of our students enjoy thriving, productive lives in a future they create.” Thinking Maps enables our students to take ownership of their learning. In the past, the emphasis in the classroom has been on content and imparting information – for example, memorizing multiplication facts and reciting state capitals. Thinking Maps helps students shift from rote memorization to emphasizing problem-solving and critical thinking skills that elevate thinking into the realm of logic and analysis – all skills that are needed in the 21st century.


The initial training of Thinking Maps was implemented in August 2012. As with many new initiatives, there is always some apprehension knowing that it might be just another strategy – here today and gone tomorrow. The teachers of Castle Hills came into the training as the professionals they are and were attentive, eager and wanting to engulf something – anything – that would help their students learn more effectively. Our Thinking Map trainers did a superb job and we as a school have never looked back.


Here at “The Castle,” we are supported not only by our Parent Teacher Association (PTA), but also by the Castle Hills Education Foundation. The school decided that more Thinking Map training was desired, as the teachers could tell that Thinking Maps were making a difference in their students’ learning. Therefore, a grant was written to the Foundation and they have supported us by making sure additional training and materials are available. Every classroom in the school, including special education, Spanish, art, physical education, music and the library uses Thinking Maps. Our halls always have different Thinking Maps displayed, from class rules and procedures at the beginning of the year to project-based learning (PBL) presentations.


We have truly taken Thinking Maps to the next level. With the Thinking Map Community Software that was provided by the Foundation, all meeting agendas are in a Thinking Map. Technology is integrated into Thinking Maps, not just with the software, but this year visitors to the school can see a Thinking Map made entirely of Quick Response (QR) Codes. Each QR Code is itself a Thinking Map of each teacher, staff and administrator’s professional development. Making sure parents understand Thinking Maps themselves, we have a Thinking Map night at school where the students become the teachers and expose their parents to Thinking Maps.

QR code Tree Map


It is a very exciting time here at Castle Hills Elementary. Not only are we pushing our students to be 21st century learners, we as a staff continue to push ourselves in the area of Thinking Maps so we, too, are 21st century learners and models for our students.

Saranac Elementary, MI

The Story


Principal and Curriculum Director, Connie HamiltonThere are multiple factors that play into the success Saranac Elementary School has had with Thinking Maps implementation. Ongoing professional development, an on-site trainer, administrative support, direct teaching of the maps in all classes, and a home-school connection to include families have been key components in our implementation.

Our school improvement team determined that Thinking Maps would be a good strategy to improve our student achievement. One of the most beneficial components of Thinking Maps is the consistency in language from year to year. Since students will use the same visual representations throughout their academic career, each teacher does not need to reteach the eight thinking processes every September. This will save valuable instructional time and create a relevance to students for the learning they can carry with them across all grades and content areas.

Another key point is that all teachers can effectively use the maps so students can see connections to thinking regardless the content they’re learning. Students in music can categorize types of instruments, while math students can categorize types of shapes, etc. The point is the Tree Map looks the same for students across classrooms, and they can apply that thinking process.

Saranac Elementary School is in its second year of implementating Thinking Maps. The evidence of student growth is anecdotal through an increase of student initiated uses of the maps. Students choose to use the maps they have been taught in prewriting and note taking, specifically. Teachers have identified an increase of cross-curricular use of the maps and an ability to identify a map to assist students with their thinking. Students are beginning to use multiple maps to help them with more complex thinking. We anticipate our writing scores to be the first area of student achievement that will increase as a result of our implementation of Thinking Maps.

Saranac-Spotlight-School-2Our building’s two main school improvement goals are Thinking Maps and classroom questioning. We have combined our learning in these areas to help teachers use the language of the maps to frame questions. When prompted with “what might be some causes for ____?”, it activates students’ visual cue for a multi-flow map and helps them organize and articulate their thinking.

Our advice to other school leaders is to plan for continuous learning with the maps. From a school culture perspective, the collaborative learning and accountability for implementation of Thinking Maps has provided a cohesive link for all teachers to connect to support each other. Teachers enjoy using the maps and find them easy to walk students through complex thinking in a logical and visual way. The maps support our efforts to use formative assessments to drive instruction and to access higher order thinking to support our transition to Common Core State Standards.


Samuel Gaines Academy, FL

The Story

picture-of-carolyn-wilkinsThe progress we have made at Samuel Gaines Academy is attributed to the teachers who have dedicated themselves to our students. They participate in endless hours of professional development in order to continuously improve the quality of instruction. The introduction of Thinking Maps last year, and the implementation in all classrooms this year, are moving us toward continued school improvement.

I was driven to have all teachers use Thinking Maps since I saw their impact six years ago at my previous school. When I came to Samuel S. Gaines Academy last year, I knew that these were tools our students needed. The school has 93% of the students coming from poverty. Knowing the research about students from poverty, I knew the use of nonlinguistic representations was imperative. Understanding the power of Thinking Maps, it was easy to decide to invest in this professional development. Our students need to use the most effective strategies daily (many are 2 and 3 years behind in school). The Maps are helping students harness their learning.

When we look into classrooms we see Thinking Maps everywhere! Students are able to explain their thinking because they are using the Maps. Teachers are using them during instruction to model for students. We notice that students’ writing is strengthened because they use the Maps in planning. We look forward to state assessment results this year so we can see where we are making gains and what further work we have to do.

We also are an AVID school. Advancement Via Individual Determination is a structure in our middle school that focuses on those habits that promote successful completion of high school and college. One of the school-wide strategies is Cornell Note Taking, a perfect complement to Thinking Maps. We have a common language associated to AVID that is now married to Thinking Maps!

Thinking Maps is one of those initiatives that it is hard to imagine the transformation of a school until you actually see it. I would advise leaders to just do it! The teachers completely see their magnitude and start using them as soon as they take that first course. The students catch on the first time they are demonstrated. It is like cracking a code from teacher talk to student understanding!


Chowan Middle School, NC

The Story


Prior to becoming principal at Chowan Middle School, I had the opportunity to see Thinking Maps and Write For the Future presentations by Melba Johnson at the North Carolina Middle School Conference. When given the opportunity to be the Principal at Chowan, I knew that Thinking Maps could be the research-based universal strategy to help us implement literacy across all content areas. As we were transforming our school into a professional learning community, Thinking Maps became one of the vehicles to make this transition possible.

We implemented Thinking Maps AND Write For the Future during the 2006-2007 school year. At the end of that academic year, we made expected growth as measured by the state of North Carolina. Since that time, we have sustained the Thinking Maps Training and follow-up annually through specific sessions targeting reading and writing in all content areas, as well using Thinking Maps in Math. From 2007 until the present time, we have achieved high growth every year.
We attribute our success to sustained staff development over time. Using the same consultants, Melba Johnson and Janie MacIntyre, each time we had staff development, contributed to strong relationships, continuity, and trust between our staff and the presenters. It also became an expectation that our school would use these maps and strategies in all content areas. We monitor this using walk-through data and formal observations. Teachers are highlighted in a weekly bulletin that recognizes best practices.

At Chowan we have a strong focus on data driven instruction and reflection and use EVAAS and state EOG scores to determine strengths and areas of greatest opportunity for growth. Our staff development is based on this as well. Most recently, we have trained in Socratic Seminars and have also helped faculty and staff thread together seminars, the Common Core and Essential Standards, and Thinking Maps. The beauty of Thinking Maps is that they can be used as tools to tie together all of our initiatives. It truly is a common language and framework for thinking throughout the curriculum.

My advice to other schools or districts considering implementing Thinking Maps is to know your vision and MODEL IT. Where are you currently and where do you need to go? Understand how Thinking Maps can be a vehicle in making this transformation happen. Develop a three to five year plan that answers the following questions: How will you monitor it? What are your expectations? As an instructional leader, participate in the staff development sessions with your teachers. By doing this, you can more effectively monitor the effectiveness of the maps’ implementation when making both formal and informal observations. Use the maps when conducting meetings and make it a part of your leadership strategies. When giving feedback to teachers, use Thinking Maps as suggestions to strengthen their lessons. Show them how and celebrate their use through recognition.


Miller Intermediate School, TX


The Story

Miller Intermediate School, home of the Miller Mavericks, is part of the Alief Independent School District. The school opened in 2000 under the leadership of principal Janine Hoke. Throughout the years, the school has encountered low teacher turnover and kept administrative changes to a minimum.

At Miller, the focus is on meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Teachers understand that first line instruction is the most important part of a child’s learning. Teachers employ the most proven strategies, which include Thinking Maps in all subject areas. We also have a core team of instructional coaches who help teachers one by one improve student achievement through modeling and feedback.


Title monies afford us opportunities to provide substitutes so teachers can have training on various topics during the school day. They find this most beneficial since they observe practice in action with our own students. Safe & Civil Schools is the model we follow schoolwide for student management. It builds trust and fosters a positive climate.

Dr. Tracee Grigsby, Alief’s Coordinator of Professional Development, introduced me to Thinking Maps during a principals’ meeting two years ago. I participated firsthand with the Maps and saw the power of cooperative learning and making connections. She pointed out how Thinking Maps and the brain’s processing are a perfect match.

You must develop a three year plan for implementation, which should be written with someone who has either utilized the Maps on his/her own campus or works for Thinking Maps, Inc. The administrative team must learn side by side with the teachers and go through all of the training. Another important part is the follow up. At Miller, we posted our student Maps on wall displays during the first three months of working on them with kids. Teachers did a gallery walk during their conference periods with administrators and a trainer from Thinking Maps, Inc. after the first 3 months of implementation. Teachers found this model to be non-threatening, and improvement was successful.

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