Graphic organizers are about as common in classrooms today as computers. But that makes perfect sense since these “tools” can help students comprehend of large amounts of information and complex ideas.
A graphic organizer is a communication tool that uses visuals to show relationships and connections between ideas. Even if you aren't familiar with the term, you have probably used graphic organizers like clusters and Venn diagrams before.
Graphic organizers are powerful tools to support student learning. When you share textual information through a graphic organizer, you reduce the "cognitive load" for students.
This spatial arrangement of information helps learners more easily process new information. This is especially helpful for second-language learners, but is equally useful for helping all learners make sense of complex texts.
But even more powerful than sharing information through graphic organizers is empowering students to use graphic organizers on their own!
Make your own printable graphic organizers
Begin by using different organizers in your daily instruction. Tech4Learning has developed a free Graphic Organizer Maker you can use to develop printable organizers such as clusters, flowcharts, and cycles to support student thinking and research during project work.
To create your own customized graphic organizers, head to http://graphicorganizer.net.
Choose the type of organizer you think will most benefit the learning process. Add and customize the instructions to meet your needs. You can then create a PDF you can save or print.
Download instructions for using the Graphic Organizer Maker.
Go paperless with Wixie
If you are fortunate enough to have Wixie in your classroom, you can go paperless with graphic organizers! When you log in to your account, click the Activities tab to search for graphic organizers you can customize and assign to your students.
If you aren't sure which one you want to use, open the Curriculum Library folder, choose the Templates folder, and open the Graphic Organizers folder to see a collected set. If you know how to use the Wixie authoring tools, you can also start from a blank page and create your own.
Assign the organizer to the students in your class so that it appears when they log in. Depending on the needs of your learners, you can create several different organizers and assign to individuals or small groups to better differentiate their learning.
Once students have begun using the graphic organizers to organize information and show their thinking, use the Student tab to view their progress. Use the Comments field to help them make connections or prompt new thinking.
Putting students in the driver's seat
If graphic organizers are a useful tool for helping us understand information and see relationships, we really want students to be able to determine when and how to use them on their own!
Again, if you use Wixie, a range of graphic organizers are available to students whenever they are working. Students simply click the Templates tab at their Projects view to choose an existing organizer to support their comprehension and thinking.
A graphic organizer is especially useful during the research process. In general, you don't start an authentic research process with an organizer, but young students may want to use a Five W's (who, what, when, where, and how) to help direct their efforts and avoid plagiarism.
For projects that involve lots of information and require deep thinking, students will take many notes before they can even begin to see patterns emerge.
In many of these cases, students may want a more free-form or open organizer that they can edit and adjust on the fly.
They can simply circle and draw connections on a piece of paper, but this is where technology can make it much easier to rearrange, edit, and identify new connections.
Using a tool like Wixie, students can add individual ideas as text boxes and use the paint tools or stickers to show hierarchies or connections between them.
No matter where you or your students are in their use of graphic organizers, they are useful tools to support thinking and comprehension.