Learning Alliance Activity: My World Map

This is the third post in the series of how to Design the Learning Alliance for an Agile Classroom. Through Designing the Learning Alliance, we put ‘Classroom Culture before Covering Content’.
Trust Begins With Knowing One Another 
We all say we want a culture of trust in our classroom.
Trust between the teacher and students.
Trust between students themselves.
Yet, we often ‘mis-trust‘ because we miss opportunities to learn about one another.
We don’t make opportunities for students to understand and have empathy for each other as a whole person.
Without knowing the person, we can not have trust in a person. Learning about each other’s world is essential in growing a culture of trust, positive relationships, and collaboration.
Trust begins by knowing one another.

But how, when we are all so busy and pressured to cover the content over building our class culture?
Drawing a Map
Just like we use maps to know our physical world, we can draw a map to make our personal worlds visible to one another. 
It is called the My World Mind Map, and it is one of the first steps in Designing the Learning Alliance. 
Students interview each other using a mind map that captures each other’s values, strengths, fun and passions, peak life experiences, and goals. And it takes only 20 minutes. 
Just 20 minutes to trust, just 20 minutes to share our worlds.
Agile Classrooms ‘My World Mind Map’ Template


A Student’s Story
Carla is an 11th grader and she Asperger’s syndrome. Although very bright and creative, she had low emotional and social intelligence. She has a very tough time connecting with other students and being accepted. This would manifest as communicating in ways that were abrupt and insensitive to others. She also would have unexpected and deep emotional swings in reaction to seemingly trivial events.  Students would roll their eyes at, exclude, and make fun of Carla. At best, they would tolerate her.
One day, her teacher took them through the My World Mind Map activity. The teacher had students work in pairs for 20 minutes. The first round of 10 minutes, one student would be the interviewer of the other. With the help of an interview prompt sheet, they would ask the other questions about their life, creating connecting bubbles for each part of the mind map.

Interview Prompt Aid

In the next 10 minutes, they swapped roles of interviewer and interviewee. Once the interviews were done, they each shared out each other’s story, stating what surprised or stood out to them about their partner. All the My World Mind Maps were posted on the classroom wall so that each student could learn more about each other and refer back to it throughout the year.

My World Mind Map Example

Through the My World Mind Map interviews, Carla, for the first time, had the opportunity to share her world, a world so misunderstood by others. Carla explained how it is hard for her to say the right things and to understand how someone was feeling. She shared how this caused immense anxiety and sadness in her. Other students began to tear up. For the first time, they understood Carla, they saw her as a whole person.
Later in the week, Carla lost her phone, and became very emotional. Instead of the usual negative reactions to Carla from the other students, they rallied to support her. The other girls in the class hugged her. During one of the breaks, the girls got together and gave her a mini-spa break, doing her hair and her nails, to make her feel better. Her teacher told me that she never saw Carla so happy. It was a beautiful moment that began with simply understanding one another through the My World Mind Map interview.

Big Impact In 20 minutes
When I designed the My World Mind Map activity, I thought it would be beneficial, but, I never realized how impactful 20 minutes could be. I have seen…


  • An immediate shift from contempt to understanding.
  • The ‘toughest’ kids soften and become vulnerable. 
  • Judgement turn to compassion. 
  • Criticism turn into concern
  • An entire school begin to remove it’s toxins and replace it with a positive culture of trust.
  • Staff grow in respect for each other.
  • Teachers witness in awe as their students reveal their sincerest motivations and what is deepest in their hearts.


What’s Possible?
What might be made possible through providing opportunities understand one another? What if we invested just 20 minutes using the My World Mind Map in your classroom? Perhaps bullying will subside. Perhaps the classroom will support each other more. Perhaps we will plant the seeds for a culture of deep trust. At the same time, students will develop critical 21st century skills such as asking questions, listening, and empathy.


My Challenge to You 

Visit the My World Mind Map page to download the template and instructions. Use it, and make a classroom culture of trust a priority. We all yearn to connect and be seen as who we are, and this is one way to make this happen. Then, please share your story with me by emailing  john@agileclassrooms.com or commenting on this blog post. In our Agile Classroom Teacher workshop, this is one of the tools you are given and learn to facilitate for your staff and students. If you are interested in a workshop, please contact us.    

Thank You For Reading,

 John Miller | Agile Classrooms | @agileschools | john@agileclassrooms.com

1 Comment

  1. poorni on 11/19/2016 at 11:43 pm

    Very interesting!! I will definitely try it in my classroom. The students [13 yr olds] will be back after their semester holidays. After I try it, I will share experiences here. Thank you

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