Knowledge Maps

Knowledge maps represent common structures that students must recognize to read and understand information. They also represent common structures students must use to write well-­structured and cohesive essays. These structures should be taught to students and then used as tools for comprehension and tools for writing. The knowledge maps academy teachers should use are listed in figure 11.1.


Figure 11.1 indicates that there are 15 different types of knowledge maps. A number of these maps have multiple forms that range from simple to complex. Also note that the figure depicts grade level bands within which specific types of maps are most appropriate. Below is an excerpt from the Implementation Manual covering the first type of knowledge maps: 1. Basic Relationships.

1. Basic Relationships

The basic relationships knowledge map is meant to raise students’ awareness of how ideas relate to each other. When students pay attention to the types of connections between ideas, it strengthens their understanding and memory of the ideas and their relationship. Figure 11.2 shows the basic relationships knowledge map.


There are four types of basic relationships: (1) addition, (2) contrast, (3) time, and (4) cause.

Addition relationships indicate that things are alike or the same, and are signaled by words such as and, additionally, as well as, likewise, that is, in fact, for example, in sum, overall, and together.

Addition relationships are typically focused on connecting items that belong in the same category. For example, the following sentences identify a category and items that fit in that category.
• Jane has three pets: a cat, a dog, and a fish. (category: pets; members: cat, dog, fish)
• We read about famous baseball players, like Babe Ruth. (category: famous baseball players; member: Babe Ruth)
• Sam exercised a lot today! He did push-­‐ups, lifted weights, and ran four miles. (category: exercise; members: push-­‐ups, weights, running)

Addition relationships are also present when the same idea is presented twice, in slightly different ways. For example, in the sentences, “I love to read. In fact, reading is my favorite activity.” the idea being communicated is a preference for reading; the author is simply expressing such an idea in multiple ways. That is, both of the statements belong in the category of “statements that express a preference for reading.”

Contrast relationships indicate that things are opposite or different, and are signaled by words such as but, on the other hand, rather, alternatively, in contrast, in comparison, however, in spite of, and nevertheless. Contrast relationships are focused on distinguishing items that belong in different categories. For example, the following sentences identify a category and items that do not fit in that category.
• I like pizza but I don’t like salad. (category: food I like; nonmember: salad)
• Tony must either vacuum the floor or put the dishes away. (category: chores Tony must do; potential nonmember #1: vacuum, potential nonmember #2: put dishes away)
• Anna has red hair but mine is brown. (category: Anna’s hair color; nonmember: brown)

Contrast relationships are also used to pair two ideas that don’t go together. For example, in the sentence, “My brother is really annoying, but I love him anyway.” the author is saying that her brother is annoying (which makes us think she doesn’t like him) but that, in spite of his annoying behaviors, she loves him anyway.

Time relationships talk about when things happened, and are signaled by words such as before, after, while, later, earlier, until, in the meantime, and meanwhile. For example, the following sentences express things happening at the same time, before other events, or after other events.
• It is summer in the northern hemisphere while it is winter in the southern hemisphere.
• We waited for fifteen minutes before my friend showed up.
• I didn’t understand until after the teacher explained the math problem.

Cause relationships talk about why things happened, and are signaled by words such as because, as a result, consequently, thus, so, and hence. For example, the following sentences express a cause and an effect.
• The flying rock made a hole in the window. (cause: flying rock; effect: hole in window)
• I got sunburned because I didn’t wear sunscreen at the pool. (cause: no sunscreen; effect: sunburn)
• If we go to the mall, I will buy a pair of shoes! (cause: going to the mall; effect: buying shoes)


Once students have been taught the basic relationships maps they can use them as tools for reading and writing.

Teachers can ask students to examine a short passage and identify the more obvious basic relationships in the passage. They can create diagrams that depict those relationships, rewrite the ideas in abbreviated form, and use the symbols to signify the type of relationship between various sets of ideas.

Teachers can ask students to write short paragraphs that follow a specific pattern of basic relationships. For example, a teacher might provide students with a starting sentence and then ask them to create two sentences that have addition relationships with that sentence, followed by one sentence that has a contrast relationship.