Using Mind Mapping to Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension at SMK BPS&K II Bekasi

Using Mind Mapping to Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension at SMK BPS&K II Bekasi

Henrikus Male

Hardianti Aprilianing Tias

Universitas Kristen Indonesia, Indonesia


Various studies have shown mind mapping is a powerful tool to help learners develop their skills, including reading comprehension. This two-cycled action research was conducted to enhance students’ reading comprehension by implementing mind mapping. The participants of this study were 25 students of X Accounting class in SMK BPS&K II Bekasi. The results show that mind mapping improved students reading comprehension. It can be seen from the increase of mean scores of the three tests administered during the action research, i.e. 54.4 to 70 to90. Moreover, the students’ attitudes towards reading comprehension also changed from a negative one to a positive one.

Key Words: action research, mind mapping, reading comprehension

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For the learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), reading is the most vital skill to master due to several reasons. First, students can usually perform at a higher level in reading than in any other skills. They can comprehend written materials beyond their ability to discuss orally or in writing with equivalent accuracy. This can undoubtedly increase their motivation to learn. Second, reading requires very minimum necessities. Different from speaking which requires opportunities to interact with sparring partners, or from writing which needs a lot of guidance and time to practice, reading necessitates only a text and motivation. Third, reading is a service skill. After learning how to read effectively, students will be able to learn effectively by reading (Pardede, 2010). In terms of language learning, by reading, learners can develop their knowledge of grammar, discourse organization, vocabulary, and culture. In addition, Davis (2012) stated that reading is essential for it is fundamental to function in today’s society, a vital skill in finding a good job. It also develops the mind and the imagination and helps discover new things.

Despite the high importance of reading in education and in real life as well, EFL students seem to find difficulties in reading so that they have low motivation to read. Bin-Tahir(2012) argued that most students’ low of vocabulary mastery made them unable to read English text. Deporter and Hernacki (1999) even stated that reading is anxiety for students so that many of them found reading very difficult. Iftanti’s (2012)study revealed that although the students of the English Department of five state universities in East Java had a positive view of reading, they did not have good English reading habits.

The tenth graders of SMKBPS&K II Bekasi also faced problems in reading. In their daily learning, they seemed uninterested in reading English texts. Determining the mind ideas seemed to be troublesome for them. They also encountered difficulties in distinguishing the topic sentence from the supporting sentences, skimming, and scanning. Consequently, they found it very difficult to get the meaning of passages they were reading, as shown by their low score in reading comprehension.

To succeed the learning process in order to help the learners master reading, one of the determining factors to consider is the teaching and learning technique. Among the various techniques proposed to achieve this, is mind-mapping (Rizqiya (2013, p. 33). The potential of mind mapping to involve the combination images, colors, and visual-spatial arrangement for expressing related ideas and complex problems in a simple way (Marguiles, 1991) makes it a powerful tool for learning. According to Buzan (2010), mind mapping is a radiant, hierarchical thinking technique which allows for greater creativity when recording ideas and information, as well as allowing the notes-taker to associate words with visual representations. Various recent studies (Asmiaty,2001; Moi & Lian, (2007; Bekti, 2009) revealed that mind mapping is not only appropriate but also helpful in improving students reading comprehension because it helps the students easier to understanding texts and make them more creative and imaginative in drawing pictures and symbols and enabled them to see the relationship of the content visually and search for keywords in an answer to question.

Referring to the above explanations, this study was carried out to improve students’ reading comprehension by using the mind mapping technique. In addition, this study was also conducted to investigate the students’ interest in the use of mind mapping technique.


Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension, in its basic sense, is the process of understanding and interpreting texts in order to get some specific or detail information. Grabe and Stoller (2002: 9) stated that reading is the ability to draw a meaning from the written text and interpret it appropriately. According to Finichiaro and Bonomo (as cited in Patria, 2013, p.3), reading is bringing and getting meaning from the printed or written materials. In addition, Indrayani (2014, p. 9) stated that reading comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning or idea in the written text completely and chronically. Besides as the process of understanding and interpreting texts, these definitions also imply that reading is an interactive process which involves the reader the texts, and the writer. In reading, the reader attempts to understand and interpret the ideas conveyed by the writer through the texts (Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 119). The reader decodes the message by recognizing the written signs, interpret the message by assigning meaning to the string of words and understand what the writer’s intention was.

To be able to effectively get the meaning of the text, readers should fulfill three things: (1) identify and understand the words in the text or words recognition, (2) construct and understand the words, and (3) coordinate the words and interpret them so that there is an accurate understanding. Leipzig (2001). This is in line with Nation(2001: 339) and Richard and Bamford (as cited in Harmer (2001: 210) who stated that a text can be understood by the reader when it is written using specialized vocabulary and grammar that exist at the level of the readers ‘ability. In addition, Grabe (2010, p. 277) claimed that understanding main ideas and exploring the organization of a text are essential for good comprehension. Considering these, reading comprehension is apparently a complex activity (Schmitt 2010, p. 216) in which readers should not only possess a certain amount of vocabulary and grammar mastery and master the skills of finding the main ideas but also engage in processing the phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic and discourse levels. Therefore, to make sure that a student can read effectively, Brown (2004, p. 206) suggested the teacher include his understanding of the basic ideas, expressions, idioms, phrases in context, grammar, supporting ideas, and vocabulary in the evaluation of reading skills.

Heilman (1981:246) identifies four reading comprehension levels: literal, interpretative, critical, and creative. Literal comprehension involves acquiring information that is directly stated. Interpretive reading involves “reading between lines” of making an inference. Critical reading involves evaluating of written material. Creative comprehension involves formulating and rethinking ideas.

The literal reading is the simplest level because what the reader needs to do is to reproduce what the author is explicitly conveying. Thus, the reader aims only to understand the information explicitly stated in the texts. The evidence of the reader’s understanding could be seen from his ability to recognize and recall facts; identify the main idea and supporting details; categorize, outline, and summarize the information. To master literal reading, the reader should also be able to locate information, use context clues to supply meaning, follow specific directions, follow a sequence, identify stated conclusion, and identify explicitly stated relationships and organizational patterns (such as cause-effect and comparison and contrast).

Interpretative (or inferential) reading concerns with what the author means by what is said. It requires the reader to go beyond the information given by the writer. Like in literal reading, inferences in interpretative reading are made in the main idea, supporting details, sequence, and cause and effect relationships. However, interpretative reading requires the reader to read between the lines and make inferences about things not directly stated. Interpretative reading could also involve interpreting figurative language, drawing conclusions, predicting outcomes, determining the mood, and judging the author’s point of view.

Critical reading, which is defined as “an active and purposeful process of comprehending, questioning and evaluating printed material and in order to react intelligently to the writer’s ideas (Pardede,2007), deals with why the author says what he or she says. Critical reading is always called the high level of comprehension because it requires the reader to use some external criteria from his/her own experience in order to evaluate and judge the quality of the information, the values of the writer’s use of language, and the writer’s reasoning, simplifications, and generalizations. To do so, the reader should note the evidence of the writer’s bias, his qualifications, his point of view, intent and truthfulness. In short, the reader should react emotionally and intellectually to the texts.

Creative reading requires the reader’s involvement with the information presented as he uses it to formulate or rethink ideas of his own. It also includes reading for implied and inferred meanings, appreciative reactions, and critical evaluations. While reading, the reader keep on asking himself, “What will happen now?”, “Why?”, “If I were placed in such condition, what am I going to do?”, “How the character felt?”, “Have I ever felt like that?”. By getting the answer for these questions, the reader will be able to get the implied and inferred meanings.

Mind Mapping

Mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts, Buzan (2010), who popularized and developed it, claimed that mind mapping is a powerful graphics method which provides a universal key to unlocking the potential of a brain. It is a useful technique that helps the students learn more effectively and improves the way to record information. Buzan (2007, p. 116) accentuated that mind mapping is advantageous to: (1) memorize everything permanently, (2) master the fact, number and the formula easily, (3) increase the concentration and motivation, (4) memorize the names, the events in history, and the drama text, (5) rememorize again the information easily, and (6) decrease a half of the studying time. Ingemann (2008) supported the claim by stating that by mind mapping one can develop his ability in memorizing, brainstorming, learning, and developing creativity. In addition, Akpodiete (2012, p. 1) stated it is a visual thinking tool that helps to structure information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas. Moreover, it is a method of creative note-taking which makes students easy to remember a lot of information (De Porter, 2008, p.175).

For Kaufman (2008), “a mind map is a non-linear diagram that makes it easy to capture key thoughts and connections between ideas in a graphical or visual format”. To make a mind map, an idea, concept, or question is placed in the center. Then the information is captured by connecting the key concepts and thoughts to the central idea. More detailed information related to these thoughts is then captured in branches that radiate out from the key concepts, away from the central idea. Kaufman (2008) emphasized that mind mapping is a valuable technique to use while reading and making notes. Its non-linear format permits one to view the whole notes at a glance, then easily place new information in the appropriate branch or make connections between ideas. This is in line with the theory of top-down process which views reading is not only a process of extracting meaning from a text but a process of connecting information in the text with the background knowledge the reader brings to the act of reading (Pardede, 2010).

In the context of learning reading comprehension, Bahadori and Gorjian, (2016, p.9) stated that mind maps help develop students ability to comprehend and understand the meaning of a text. Cadieux (2011, p.1) supported this by emphasizing that, “mind mapping can be used to improve reading comprehension in both fiction and non-fiction texts and across a variety of genres. Mind maps work because they give the reader another (visual) way to process information.” She also argued that, “for non-fiction texts, the mind map should contain the main idea in the center, branching out to supporting ideas and facts (…) if using a mind map, students should be asked to use the center of the mind map for the title of the book or piece of text.” In short, mind mapping can be employed in numerous stages in the reading task. This depends on the teacher’s ability to manipulate and change the strategy to suit the type of the reading task.

Various studies revealed mind mapping is effective to use to develop students’ reading comprehension. The action research carried out by Rizqiya (2013) in a senior high school in Bandung revealed that mind mapping made the students effectively recall their background knowledge and focus on their reading. The result of Moi and Lian’s (2007, p.71) study revealed that incorporating mind mapping into the teaching of comprehension skills enhances students’ understanding and memory of comprehension passages. Similarly, Cain (2001, p.5) showed that by means of mind mapping evidence includes improved concentration, staying ontask for longer periods of time, improved questioning and answering during class discussions and improved independence. In addition, Toi’s (2009, p.8) study showed that mind mapping could help children recall words more effectively than using lists.

Based on the usefulness and effectiveness of mind mapping use to develop students’ reading comprehension reported above, mind mapping was incorporated as the teaching technique in this study. Specifically, the study addressed the following research questions: (1) Can mind mapping improve the students’ reading comprehension? (2) Are the students interested in the use of mind mapping to develop reading comprehension?


This study employed an action research design. It was conducted in two cycles in two months, April to May 2015. The participants were 25 students of the X Accounting class .of SMK Badan Pembina Sekolah dan Kursus (BBPS & K) II Bekasi.

The data was collected using test and non-test techniques. The test technique was a pre and two posttests used to measure the reading comprehension achievement of the participants. The pre-test was administered before the action, while the first posttest (posttest I) was conducted at the end of cycle 1, and posttest II, at the end of cycle 2. The non-test is a questionnaire and observation sheet. The questionnaire was used to collect data concerning the response of the students of the using of mind mapping. The questionnaire was administered three times, i.e. before the action research, at the end of cycle 1, and at the end of cycle 2.  The observation sheet was used by a collaborator to record the activities and. All data were analyzed employing the descriptive analysis technique. The success indicator of this action research was the participants’ achieving of the mean score of 70.


Initial Condition

As shown by the results obtained by the participants in the pretest (Table 1), almost a half of the participants (48%) had low performance in reading comprehension, and only4% had the excellent category. The mean score obtained by the students was 54.4.

In addition to the participants’ low reading comprehension performance, most of the students also found reading difficult and uninteresting. Based on their responses to the questionnaire administered before the action research, 80% or more of them viewed reading skills difficult (see Table 2).

Report of Cycle 1

1. Planning

The plan of cycle 1 was focused to overcome the problems discovered during the initial observation and the results of the pretest and information obtained from the questionnaire administered in the pre-cycle. As previously described, that the participants generally had poor performance in reading comprehension, found reading skills difficult and were uninterested in reading.

2. Action

The actions of cycle 1 were conducted in three meetings on April 39th, May 5th, and May 7th, 2015. The first meeting began by introducing the mind mapping technique to the students. Then the researchers explained the material about “descriptive text”. After that, the researchers asked the student to read the text of “Family Activity at Home”, find and discussing the meaning of difficult words, and make a mind mapping based on the text. After the students knew how to make a mind map, they were asked to read another text, “My Best Friend”. When they finished reading it, they made a mind map based on the text. Then, using their mind map, they ask and answer questions concerning the text

The same procedure was done in the next meetings. As the students could make a mind map better and better, the action research ran better and better from session to session.  At the end of the third meeting, the researchers reviewed the material for a while and gave posttest I. This session was ended by asking the participants to fill in the same questionnaire they got in the pre-cycle.

3. Observing

As shown by Table 3, the learning activities using mind mapping in cycle 1 managed to improve the participants’ reading comprehension skills. After completing cycle 1, no more student got the low-level score. The mean score had even increased to 70 (from 54.4in the pretest). However, 44% of the participants still got a fair level score. That’s why cycle 2 was planned.

In line with the improvement of their reading comprehension performance, their view of reading skills also changed. The majority (80%) now perceived reading English texts and to get the topic sentence is easy. A greater number (84%) had even viewed reading unenjoyable. However, almost half of them still considered getting the main idea and detail information difficult (See Table 4).

4. Reflecting

Based on the data obtained in cycle 1, the researchers reflected that mind mapping was very potential to employ to improve respondents’ reading comprehension. It managed to increase the participants ‘reading comprehension performance and changed the negative views of most of them to a positive one. However, since the number of the participants who had negative views to reading skills was still big, the researcher planned to carry out cycle 2. To make the activity in cycle 2 more effective, the researchers planned to ask the participants to collaboratively make their mind maps colorful. This might make the learning process more interesting.

Report of Cycle 2

1. Planning

As indicated previously, the action plan of cycle two was designed similar to that of cycle 1. However, different from the mind maps made in cycle 1 which used black ink only, the mind maps in cycle 2 were planned to be colorful. The intention was to increase the participants’ interest to make them. In addition, the mind maps in cycle 2 will be created collaboratively in groups of three to four students.

2. Acting 

Cycle 2 consisted of three meetings which were held on May 19th, 21st and26th 2015. The topics of the second cycle were ProfessionThe Island of Wingo, and Kediri. The first meeting was started by overviewing the use of mind mapping and exposing that it could be made in colors. After that, the researchers asked the student to read the text and find the difficult word, and then the researcher asked them to make groups consisting of three to four members. Each group was provided with similar texts and colorful markers. Each group was assigned to read the text and make a mind map based on the text.  After that, each group presented the mind map in front of the class and answer the questions from the other group. The learning process during cycle 2 was more conducive than in cycle 1. The students were also more enthusiastic.

3. Observing

As shown by Table 5, the learning activities using mind mapping in cycle 2 managed to improve the participants’ reading comprehension skills. After completing cycle 2, no more student got the low and fair level score. More than two-thirds (68%) had even got an excellent level, while the rests got a good level. The mean score had even increased to 90 (from 70 in posttest 1).

The participants’ view of reading skills also changed drastically. The majority (80% or more) now perceived all the reading skills listen in the questionnaire easy. All of the participants (100%) even viewed reading in enjoyable (See table 6).

4. Reflecting

Based on the data obtained in cycle 2, the researcher reflected that mind mapping is a very effective tool for improving students’ reading comprehension. Although this action research was conducted only in two months, it managed to increase the participants’ reading comprehension performance and totally changed their views of reading from a negative to a positive one. Since the success criteria had been attained, the action research ended.


The results of this study revealed that mind mapping could effectively enhance the students ’reading comprehension. Before participating in the action research, 72% of the participants got “fair” and “poor” score categories. This was in line with their responses through the pre-action questionnaire which revealed 80% or more of them viewed reading skills difficult, and 80% did not enjoy reading English texts. After they participated in the reading activities using mind mapping in cycle 1, no more student got a low-level score, although 44% still got the fair level score. Their mean score also increased from 54.4 in the pretest to 70 in the posttest. The learning activities in cycle 1 did not only enhance their reading comprehension performance but also their attitude. If in the pre-action survey 80% of them did not enjoy reading, at the end of cycle 1 the majority (84%) viewed reading enjoyable.

The implementation of mind mapping in cycle 2 became more effective when the mind maps were made colorful and done in groups. It seemed the use of colors increased the students’ interest and the inclusion of collaboration enhanced their involvement in the learning process. After completing cycle 2, no more student got the low and fair level score. More than two-thirds (68%) had even got an excellent level. The mean score also increased to 90 (from 70 in posttest 1). In addition, the data obtained from the questionnaire administered at the end of cycle 2 revealed the whole students enjoyed reading English texts, more than 90% found reading English texts and getting the topic sentence from an English text easy.

By comparing the three mean scores obtained from the three tests assigned in this study (see Figure 1), it is very obvious that mind mapping is a very effective tool teacher could use to improve the students’ reading comprehension. The more skillful the students in making a mind map, the better their reading performance. The implementation of mind mapping abridged the students to get information from the texts they are facing, helped them to connect their background knowledge and the new ideas obtained from the texts, and improved their memory retention. This is in line with the findings of Moi and Lian’s (2007), Rizqiya (2013), and Cain (2001).  In addition, the use of mind mapping, especially the colorful ones, attracted the students’ interest to read.


Based on the findings and discussion presented in previous sections, it can be concluded that mind mapping was successful to improve the reading comprehension ability of. The students of the X Accounting class of SMK Badan PembinaSekolah dan Kursus (BBPS&K) II Bekasi. Mind mapping implementation also changed the students’ view on reading English text from unenjoyable enjoyable. In relation to this, the researchers suggest teachers to use mind mapping technique as an alternative in teaching reading comprehension.

Since this study is an action research involving a class of tenth graders of SMK majoring in accounting, the details could not be generalized to other groups of students. Future studies, therefore, are recommended to modify some aspects of the materials, activities, media, and strategy used in this study to suit the conditions of the target group of students.


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Note: This article was presented at UKI English Education Department Collegiate Forum, held on Friday, October 23, 2015


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