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What is a Spider Map?

Spider Map - spider diagram - mind map template

A spider map is a brainstorming or organizational tool that provides a visual framework for students to use. Sometimes, this graphic organizer is called a “concept map” or a “spider web graphic organizer”. A spider map has a main idea or topic in the center, or the body, of the diagram. Each detail or sub-topic associated with the main idea has its own leg, or branch, surrounding the main idea.

Spider Maps Help You:

  • Record and show what you know about a topic
  • Organize information without a hierarchy
  • Plan

Breaking Down the Spider Map

The title in the center of the spider map is the central topic, person, or vocabulary word. The map then branches out into separate cells to show details or examples of the topic. Having the main topic in the center and the ideas surrounding it reduces the temptation to give greater importance to particular details. The legs of the spider map are all treated equally!

How Can I Use the Spider Map in My Classroom?

The spider map concept and the storyboard format are a great combination that allow for a multi-disciplinary approach. It is a true enhancement to any classroom!

Customize Worksheets!

If you're looking for another step or an alternative assignment, you can create spider map worksheets to use in your class! These worksheets can be customized and printed out for students to fill out with a pencil, or they can be completed in the Storyboard Creator like a digital worksheet. You can even create multiple versions for those students who might need a little extra help, and keep them on hand for future use! Find plenty of templates to work from or just start with a blank canvas.

ELA History Foreign Language STEM
  • 5 Ws
  • Causes of a Significant Event
  • Important Historical Figures
  • Vocabulary
  • Characteristics
  • Cultural Examples
  • Brainstorming
  • Fraction Equivalents
  • Internet Safety

The basic premise of spider mapping is to familiarize students with a topic at a basic level. Elementary students, fora example, still have narrow scope of knowledge on many topics. Using a spider map with this age group encourages a deeper, more thought-provoking exploration about something they may not know much about.

Spider maps give the students a way to record and organize their ideas. In a spider map, the details are surrounding the central topic in a branch-like format. This naturally eliminates the hierarchy that a linear outline may portray.

Spider mapping can be used by all ages. It is most commonly used in the elementary grades, but middle school, high school, or even college students can benefit from using spider maps. They are a great way for older students to organize information. Often, students will start brainstorming and realize they know more, or less, than they originally thought.

English Language Arts

The spider map focuses on one topic and the details related to that topic, so this graphic organizer is perfect for main idea and details, character and characteristics, theme and examples, and much more! Also use this graphic organizer for brainstorming and planning for writing.

Example Activities


Since the spider map does not give priority to specific information, it is an ideal graphic organizer to show competing forces or concurrent events. A favorite spider map activity is the 5 Ws that asks the questions "who, what, where, when, and why?" on a topic or event. Students can share a wealth of information in a simple, clear fashion.

Example Activities

  • 5 Ws
  • Causes or Outcomes of a Significant Event
  • Important Historical Figures

Foreign Language

Learning associations or vocabulary in groups while studying a new language can greatly enhance language acquisition and reinforcement. Use a spider map to show related items for a greater understanding of the whole concept or unit. In addition, any activity that can be used for ELA can be used in more advanced foreign language literature classes.

Example Activities

  • Vocabulary
  • Characteristics
  • Cultural Examples

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Coming up with questions, researching, and testing drive many STEM projects. The spider map can assist students with note-taking, spit-balling ideas, organizing topics or materials, and presenting findings. The non-linear format is perfect for information that holds equal significance.

Example Activities

  • Vocabulary
  • Properties
  • Examples of a Central Topic

Applications for Special Education

Storyboard That is a fun tool for everyone in the classroom, but may be particularly useful for students on IEPs and 504 plans. Graphic organizers serve as a way to structure or guide a student's thinking. The spider map makes brainstorming easy and engaging!

Storyboard That allows the creators to incorporate pictures, colors, and text into their graphic organizers; not all students have stellar handwriting or drawing abilities. Incorporating a storyboard-style format into digital storytelling allows handwriting abilities and drawing talents to become irrelevant. All students end up with a graphic organizer they can look back on later and still be able to understand it.

Educators can use Storyboard That to create their own customized digital assignments or print-outs. Here are a few additional ideas on when to use a spider map storyboard for special education:

  • Create visual vocabulary boards
  • Use Storyboard That instead of a pencil and paper assignment
  • Brainstorm on a topic
  • Take notes
  • Plan a piece of writing
  • Modify research assignments to record information on a topic
  • Create a board for options (games, rewards, communication needs)

For more ideas on integrating storyboards in special education, please see our other articles related to special education.

Related Activities

Check out these spider map activities from our guides on Ancient Mesopotamia, The American Revolution, and Buddhism.

How to Teach Note-taking Skills with Spider Maps


Introduce Spider Maps and Note Taking

Introduce spider maps as a visual note-taking strategy that helps students organize and connect key ideas. Explain the purpose of note-taking and how spider maps can enhance comprehension and retention of information.


Model Spider Map Note Taking

Demonstrate the process of creating a spider map while taking notes on a specific topic or text. Think aloud as you identify the main idea or central topic and generate related subtopics or supporting details.


Teach Spider Map Techniques

Teach various spider map techniques, such as using keywords, phrases, or symbols to represent information. Discuss how to use lines or arrows to connect ideas and show relationships between different concepts.


Provide Guided Practice

Provide guided practice opportunities for students to create spider maps while taking notes. Select a text or topic and guide students through the process, providing support and feedback as needed.


Encourage Independent Spider Map Note Taking

Gradually transition students to independent spider map note-taking. Assign readings or topics and have students create spider maps to capture and organize key ideas on their own.


Reflect and Review

Reflect on the effectiveness of spider map note-taking with students. Discuss the benefits, challenges, and strategies for using spider maps as a note-taking tool. Review and reinforce the use of spider maps as an ongoing note-taking strategy in future lessons.

Frequently Asked Questions about Spider Map Graphic Organizer

What is a spider map?

A spider map is a brainstorming or organizational tool that provides a visual framework for students to use. It has a main idea or topic in the center and each detail or sub-topic associated with the main idea has its own leg or branch surrounding the main idea.

How does a spider map work?

The spider map has a central topic in the center and each detail or sub-topic associated with the main idea has its own branch surrounding the main idea. This helps students organize information without a hierarchy and reduces the temptation to give greater importance to particular details.

What are some benefits of using spider maps in the classroom?

Spider maps are a great way to visually record and organize information, and they can be used for a variety of purposes, such as brainstorming, planning, and understanding main ideas and details. They can also be used by students of all ages, from elementary to college.

How can teachers use spider maps in the classroom?

Teachers can use spider maps in a variety of ways, such as for brainstorming and planning writing assignments, understanding the main ideas and details in a text, and organizing information for research projects. Spider maps can also be customized into worksheets for students to fill out individually or in groups.

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