Graphic OrganizersBy: Colleen Vosshans
Hello! The following virtual seminar covers many aspects of graphic organizers including: what graphic organizers are, why educators should use them, the different types of organizers, curriculum planning with graphic organizers, using ready made templates, making your own graphic organizers, grouping students, assessment and some graphic organizer samples. My focus involves the use of graphic organizers with reading and writing activities for students in grades four to eight. The virtual seminar will end with some commonly asked questions where I welcome some additional responses from you.
Enjoy Colleen Vosshans
What is a graphic organizer?
A graphic organizer is a visual representation of knowledge that structures information by arranging important aspects of a concept or topic into a pattern using labels. Sometimes graphic organizers are called other names such as: semantic maps, story webs, mind maps or visual organizers.
Having students actively involved in their learning is essential for student success. Graphic organizers allow students to become engaged in learning activities as they include both word and visual images. Graphic organizers are effective because they present information concisely in ways that emphasize the organization and relationship of concepts. The nice thing about graphic organizers is that they can be used at any grade level, complement all subject areas and work with a wide variety of learners including ESL students, gifted students and special needs students. In todays classrooms, students need to read, comprehend and remember information from a wide variety of texts. Brain based research shows that students need to visualize information in order to process it and graphic organizers are powerful tools that help them accomplish their educational goals.
Why use graphic organizers?
Graphic organizers help students..
Understand how pieces of information are related. Increase student comprehension and recall. Organize their observations, research, opinions and reflections. Prepare written assignments and presentations. Problem solve while integrating their thinking, reading and writing processes. Practice higher level thinking skills and apply those skills to real world situations. Enhance or modify previous knowledge by seeing contradictions and connections between existing and new information.
Graphic organizers help teachers..
Explain and illustrate abstract concepts. Focus students attention on one part of the text while guiding them to see the overall sequence and interrelationships of the parts. Provide ESL students with a visual image for new vocabulary and concepts. Assist students with advance information and structure. Review materials as a post reading activity. Evaluate student progress by being a more viable alternative to traditional assessments.
In general, graphic organizers..
Provide tools for creative and critical thinking. Promote more interaction with the material. Provide learning options for students.
Types of graphic organizers
Most graphic organizers fit into four basic categories: Conceptual. Hierarchical, Cyclical and Sequential.
Conceptual: These types of graphic organizers include a main concept or main idea with supporting facts, evidence or characteristics.
Hierarchical: These organizers start with a concept or topic and then include a number of ranks or levels below the topic. Cyclical: This type of organizer shows a series of events without a concrete beginning or end (circular).
Sequential: These graphic organizers arrange events in a chronological order and is helpful when events have a specific beginning and end.
Graphic organizers are suitable for all subjects: Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. There are many different graphic organizers that may be used to suit your specific subject needs. Before starting a new unit of study, graphic organizers may be used to record childrens prior knowledge; this can be done individually or as a whole class. For example, if you were doing a unit on nutrition and the food groups, you could put up an overhead transparency of a sort and classify graphic organizer, list off various foods and then have the class work together sorting and classifying the information presented. By doing some groundwork, teachers can tailor the instruction and provide the best learning situations possible.
Deciding what type of organizer to use
Graphic organizers are usually chosen according to the content and organization of the material being studied. The learning or cognitive style of the educator choosing or creating the graphic organizer is also a factor, as individuals often have a preference for one type of graphic organizer or another. For example, the non linear and open minded graphic organizer may be more appealing to holistic, creative thinkers, while the hierarchical and chronological structure of sequential organizers may appeal to linear and logical thinkers. That being said, it is important that educators implement many different graphic organizers with the various subjects and avoid using only the graphic organizers that complement their own learning style. The comfort needs of educators must take second place to the educational goals of the students.
Constructing your own graphic organizers
Although there are many books available with reproducible templates of graphic organizers some educators may (once they feel comfortable using them) want to construct their own. Here are some easy to follow guidelines:
Identify the main ideas of what is being studied. ie. Brainstorm Cluster or group related ideas / words. Figure out the common bonds between the main ideas. ie. Cause & effect, compare & contrast, sequential, chronological etc.. Once the common bonds have been identified, decide on the best format to use. Go back to your brainstorming and make links between ideas and draw connecting lines. Cross out irrelevant ideas. Recognize that often there are many ways to represent the information gathered. Use words plus icons and pictures in your graphic organizer. If possible, use colour on your graphic organizer. Use the stepping stone approach give students partially completed graphic organizers at first. Your goal is to move from direct instruction and modeling to student independence.
Some additional tips
Make your graphic organizers on whiteboards, chalkboards, flannel boards, chart paper, overhead transparencies, regular paper that can be photocopied or even on sidewalks or courtyards if the opportunity arises.
Take advantage of various tools use coloured markers, pencil crayons or sidewalk chalk! If you are a techie use available computer software which allows a more polished product.
Take ideas from available resource books and modify ready to use graphic organizers to suit your specific needs. Share ideas with colleagues you never know the expertise that may be right at your fingertips.
Using templates and strategies from resource books
Many ready to go templates will work nicely with what you are studying. These reproducible books are especially comforting for educators who are only learning to use graphic organizers and want to test the waters with their classes. Modification is done according to your student or class composition and purpose of the assignment. Brain based research tells us that graphic organizers are extremely effective tools for learning however, some students may resist them at first until they too are comfortable. Likely, graphic organizers will become a preferred learning and study strategy for many students once they have been exposed to them enough.
Samples of Reproducible Graphic Organizers
Samples of Reproducible Graphic Organizers
Samples of Reproducible Graphic Organizers
Samples of Reproducible Graphic Organizers
Several times a year, many of the newspapers in this region offer free delivery for a limited time. I always take advantage of these opportunities and encourage the students to spend time in class reading the paper. These organizers are valuable aids which help the reader extract specific details from an article.
In English 8, the students focus mainly on paragraph writing as opposed to essay writing. Both of these graphic organizers allow students to begin the process of more in depth writing without the intimidation of a long detailed essay format sheet.
These two graphic organizers pertain to The Outsiders a novel I am using with my grade 8 English class this semester. My students are fairly familiar with graphic organizers and completed them reasonably well based on their understanding of the novel. Both organizers gave the students the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the plot.
My next class novel will be Tuck Everlasting. I plan to use these two graphic organizers (plus others), during our study of the novel. The focus of these two organizers is to allow students to demonstrate knowledge of the plot and to share a readers response.
The last novel we will study in English 8 this year will be Holes. These two graphic organizers will help students better understand the characters in the novel and the concept of foreshadowing.
Grouping students when using graphic organizers
Graphic organizers can be constructed individually or by a whole class. In the beginning it is necessary to provide direct instruction and modeling. Once confidence and skills are built, the students will be able to work independently or with peers in small groups or pairs.
Graphic organizers allow teachers to assess a students understanding at a glance. Graphic organizers also allow students to assess their own learning. For example: After writing a story, a student could complete the Build a Story organizer. By filling out the graphic organizer, the student can identify areas that need further development. Including graphic organizers in student portfolios is a good performance based model for assessment since students have to demonstrate knowledge. An instructor must be cautious when assessing student knowledge based on graphic organizers. To be fair, educators must ensure students are comfortable working with graphic organizers before using them as assessment tools.
Some final reminders
Graphic organizers are most successful if discussion is a key component. Through discussion students can build on and clarify concepts and ideas. Students learn best when they are actively engaged with the materials. One way to engage students is to have them create their own graphic organizers. Remember that information can be represented in many ways and that there is no one right way to represent material visually. Some students are more visual than others in their learning . For these students, graphic organizers are particularly helpful. Graphic organizers are appropriate for diverse learners ( ESL, gifted, resource or special needs ) as the use of key vocabulary, pictures and icons makes learning language easier.
Ask Colleen Column
Today's Topic : Graphic Organizers How do I know when to use a template and when to have students create a graphic organizer on their own?
It is advised to use ready-made templates at first with students who are new to graphic organizers. The graphic organizer helps students organize their work and they will likely need support in the beginning until their confidence is built. Once students have developed a knack for using graphic organizers they may begin creating their own. Research suggests that students who actively use graphic organizers see an improvement in their learning, memory and ability to process information.
What are some ways to assess with graphic organizers?
Until students are familiar with using graphic organizers it is best to use them only as practice rather than as a means of assessing a student's abilities. Once the confidence is built then it is acceptable to use graphic organizers as a tool for assessment.
Is it better to choose one particular type of graphic organizer to use with my class at first?
It is advisable to choose one format in the beginning and repeat the same format until students understand how to use it. Teachers need to be aware that not all organizers fit with all subjects; therefore, it is best to ensure that your initial choice fits with the topic so that the students start off on the right track. The first time a graphic organizer is introduced it needs to be modelled by the teacher. Another idea is to post graphic organizers on bulletin boards around the room so that students see them in their surroundings and become more aware of them.
I don't want to bore my students, so how often is too often to use graphicorganizers in class?
Watch your class to see how they respond in terms of behaviour and how they seem to be grasping the concept of organizers. Like anything else, overuse of a strategy does get boring for students. Another suggestion is to check with other teachers to see what types and how often they use organizers so that you know what other colleagues are doing to avoid 'overkill'. Be flexible with the formats by involving the whole class one day and small groups or pairs the next. Give simple choices by offering different colours of paper, coloured markers, or utilize school computers to generate interest in graphic organizers.
Are graphic organizers useful with diverse learners?
Absolutely! Graphic organizers are especially helpful for ESL students, students with learning challenges, resource room students, students with special needs and even gifted students as they offer alternative ways to demonstrate what they know by using all their senses- visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile.
Can parents work with their children to create graphic organizers?
Of course! It is always beneficial to have parents involved in their child's learning, and working to create graphic organizers is no different. Some parents may use graphic organizers in their workplace and are therefore familiar with them. If a parent is not familiar with organizers then it is suggested that they read about the why's and how's of graphic organizers or attend a workshop on them. Another option is to make an appointment with the teacher to get some clarification on organizers.
What is the biggest problem or challenge I may experience with graphic organizers?
The biggest problem faced by educators when using graphic organizers is having the time to create and use them. Most educators find that once they are in the habit of using graphic organizers the whole process becomes easier. Graphic organizers do take time to plan before a lesson...