BESIG 2016 | Mind Maps for Business English and Coaching | Ron Morrain – a workshop summary

Posted: November 6, 2016 in Conferences

I love mind mapping, so I couldn’t wait to hear what Ron has to share with us! Here are the notes from his workshop.


The work is based on eight years on research into mind-mapping and how they influence second language learning. The focus is on B1-B2-C1 Business English classroom.

Ron Morrain maintains that, if we are to be great teachers, we need to (1) attempt to integrate the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, (2)  Task-based Language Teaching and (3) understand Project-based learning.


Ron starts a lot of his classes immediately with a mind-map to win the learners over – in his experience, using them half-way won’t work. Here are some mindmaps that his learners do – notice two things:

  • They’re based around questions, e.g. What do I expect from this course? It’s crucial to find out the learners’ expectations and beliefs from the outset.
  • His mind maps have this ‘personal touch’ – they don’t have the feel that they were ‘produced in a Word document’. He draws them on A3 paper and laminates them.
  • All of his bubbles are always numbered (to guide the learners / see the structure and logic – see also examples below.


In Ron’s school, they make no paper copies. In class, he passes his laminated copy around the class, the learners are responsible for getting a record – taking a picture, and then they navigate through the mind map using their own technology: tablets or smart phones, which makes it a ‘living object’ that they know where to find after the lesson. Also, it is the students who share the picture of the  their electronic management system and it is their pictures that Ron uses when he projects them. Basically, this is part of

Another example, at the beginning of the course: these are the speaking topics that we’ll be dealing it:

Here are the writing topics:

Ron mostly uses mind maps to guide the learners to produce a product (and the product will always be based on a skill) – below is an mind map that guides the learners to produce a 200 word restaurant review that’s going to be posted online.


Again, notice how numbers highlight the structure of the review. The questions in the bubble prompt the learners to start researching on the internet (which takes care of input) – putting the learners in control of their learning. The learners must be result-oriented, and it is the them who choose what they’re going to read.

We moved on to discuss the ‘how’ of using the mind maps based on this mind map:


First, how does the use of mind maps encourages the use of the 4Cs and a range of other questions.

E.g. to introduce Critical Thinking he introduces bubble #4: thinking critically about their area.

What happens afterwards? The learners’ product is assessed (and all teachers in Ron’s school are paid to become examiners so that they’re skilled as assessing learning).
When the mind map is used for speaking (e.g. CV mind-map below, where the learners present themselves for their partner): they have to listen pro-actively and take notes. When he asks them, ‘Did your partner make any mistakes’? they can’t answer ‘I don’t know’.

More examples – there are more business-oriented.

Product for the mind map below: a presentation, leading to writing (a 200 word essay). Again, notice how the questions prompt the learners to go out, do their research and take their learning in their hands.




The company profile – the product here is not only a presentation but a Pecha Cucha. There are 10 bubbles, and they are only allowed 3 minutes to present their company. This is a great challenge for the learners and they love it.


So, to round up, here are some of the reasons to use this approach.


  • reduces text-heavy materials
  • promotes storytelling as the people are going to be talking about themselves
  • promotes online learning
  • removes ‘talk and chalk’
  • incorporated different teaching approaches, e.g. TBL
  • a wonderful way to elicit target language in a natural way

One participant (Kirsten Waechter’s) take-away: I should learn to trust my learners more and ‘let go’.

You can find an example of a lesson plan that uses a mind map that Ron created for Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat.

And there’s a new title coming!


I was blown away by this session. I am an avid mind-mapper already, but as they say, the devil is in the detail, and what I particularly liked was the look and feel of Ron’s maps – amazing! – and his ‘demand high’ attitude and determination to really push his learners to go and grab responsibility of their teaching. I find this to be one of the biggest challenges – and necessities – working in company, and it’s great to see a very consistent approach to driving learner autonomous work. And of course I loved the amazing mind maps that he created and shared. Can’t wait for the book to come out! 

  1. Adi Rajan says:

    Another excellent summary. Thank you Olya for sharing insights from the sessions that weren’t simulcast. Really appreciate it!

  2. Jamie C says:

    It’s funny how mindmapping, for me, is often a pretty mind-less activity in class. A bit like writing ‘warmer’ on the lesson plan but not actually thinking about what the details of the activity are until in the moment. He clearly puts a lot of thought into these mindmaps and the questions to guide students. I recently got the Hall Houston mini-book ‘Brainstorming’ and he talks about the importance of giving students an actually problem / question during brainstorming and mindmapping activities, rather than just a topic.

    Just so I’m clear – he drew and wrote all the bubbles and questions on the pictures you posted, and then the students look at that picture and make a mindmap using the questions to guide them?

    Thanks for posting this useful summary.

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Hi Jamie,

      The way I understood Ron, the learners do some kind of ‘product’, e.g. a presentation or a review, i.e. they don’t do any mind-mapping themselves. Mind-maps is the visual way he chose to present the questions that guide the learners. Their layout is sure different from the mind maps that Tony Buzan invented, but I’d say the visual element definitely works, at least for me – I only looked at them briefly yesterday, and I can still remember the structure / questions presented at the ones I read. And I also like the way he guides the learners with the questions and the amount of thought that went into the questions.

      The book you wrote about sounds interesting – thanks, will check it out.

      Also, just to point out: when I was saying I love mind mapping, I was thinking of a few very specific activities and none of them seems mind-less. One is Sandy Millin’s icebreaker called A Map of Me – tried it out a few times and it’s really great. Could also be adapted, e.g. to incorporate an element of needs analysis.

      Another is mind-mapping lexical sets and/or functional expressions found in texts and dialogues – again, tried it out a lot of times and it helped my learners process lexis in texts and model dialogues at a much deeper level.

      And thirdly, I used mind maps to remember material for Delta Module 1. They worked wonders for me. What I loved about them is how they made me, again, really process the texts I was reading and look for the underlying structure, the main questions they answer, etc. This was what I lacked the most when I was doing my first degree. I lacked these study skills those days and as a result material went out as easily as it got in, unfortunately.

      So yes, I can definitely say that I’m a fan of mind mapping – although maybe I’m still to be shocked by some examples of really mind-less activities that involve mind maps at some point of my life. 🙂

      • Jamie C says:

        I see, so the mindmaps are purely to provoke ideas and discussion and their layout helps to do this. Interesting, never thought of that.

        Woah woah woah – that’s not MY book. Hall Houston wrote it. Cheers for the link, I remember reading that blog post a long time ago but never trying it out.

        Yeah I do DO mindmaps in class, and personally – on Module 1! – but I just meant that when I set them up I never really pay attention to the question / topic or what to say to students. It’s always just a vague, ‘ok make a mind map about xxxxxxxxxx’, so mindless in that sense.

        You describe how useful mindmaps can be, it would be a good lesson for uni students – how to mindmap effectively.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s