I attended a great training on Thinking Maps several years ago. My favorite part of the training was that it happened in two parts. You had the initial introduction, were told to try out the techniques and come back with the second part to share examples of how you used them. Loved that aspect of collaboration.
Anyway, my pet peeve about thinking maps is that I hear people refer to them all the time as adding higher level thinking to an activity. I think this is misleading. The maps themselves-especially ones like a bubble map or flow map are actually just testing recall for the students. One way to make something like a bubble map more rigorous is to add the concept of multiple perspectives. How would these characters describe this character? My favorite one to do it for is the Lorax. How the Once'ler, trees, fish and the Lorax would describe the Lorax. I also do it with Tacky the Penguin. The students love that story and the characters are plainly described.
I have them write Tacky in the middle. Then they use adjectives to describe Tacky based on the perspective of the hunters, his companions, Tacky himself and the reader. I was actually very impressed with the maps they made.