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Charity Preston's picture
Charity Preston, M.A., is a national presenter, consultant and author. She has completed studies in gifted training, cooperative learning and differentiation, as well as a master's degree in...
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Graphic Organizers to Aid in Learning

Graphic organizers are a great teaching tool to use regularly! Many teachers are great about using KWL charts~ but those are not the only graphic organizers out there. Visual and mathematical-logical learners truly benefit from this type of learning. If the graphic organizers are leveled for different groups or used in cooperative learning groups~ the results can be amazing!

Many teachers have used Venn diagrams~ which are fantastic for student comprehension and application of material. Venn diagrams are definitely a higher-level thinking type of graphic organizer. Venns seem simple enough when looking at them~ but toss a couple at some first or second graders and watch for the looks of confusion you start to see. These organizers can (and should) be leveled for different students. I also suggest anytime Venns are used that teachers allow students to work in partners or small groups. All will certainly learn more than trying to complete it alone. Vary the type of Venn diagram used by giving below level groups a simple two-circle graph to compare and contrast two things. An on-level group could do the same~ but be asked to use the information from the graph to create a paragraph restating the information found. An above-level partner grouping could be given a three-circle version or be asked to create an argument to defend a point-of-view using the information located in their Venn. Leveling works wonders for using Venn diagrams as a teaching tool.

Another type of graph is a T-chart. T-charts are beneficial when you are comparing or contrasting~ much in the same way that a Venn diagram does. In the case of a T-chart~ there is no middle group. T-charts can be used wonderfully in math for attribute groups or in science for classifying organisms. The list-makers in your classroom will love completing this type of organizer.

Mind-mapping is another graphic organizer that may not be used as much as the previous two. When you ask students to mind-map~ all you really are asking from them to do is to create some type of reminder token of what was learned so that the connection is available for retention later. In order to be used correctly~ mind-mapping must be modeled continually until students get a firm grasp of what is expected. In this strategy~ you begin with a circle in the middle of a plain sheet of paper with the main concept listed in the center of the circle. From that point on~ students will add "spokes" to the circle to add subcategories. The spokes should use pictures~ words~ and most definitely lots of color. Colored pencils should be used in order to reinforce retention. I like to have my students add something to their map each day after the current lesson. This way~ the final map can be used as a review tool before the final chapter test. Mind-maps help students to realize they are actually plotting main ideas and supporting details of a topic. This skill can be transferred to any subject taught.

Graphic organizers are plentiful and a resource book or the Internet can show many more than I could ever cover. Organizers are essential to deepen understanding and transfer knowledge for all levels of learners.


Charity Preston - The Organized Classroom