Whether you are an instructional technology coach or classroom teacher, you likely have a very large number of tools and instructional strategies to support teacher professional development. To make the most of any time you have, help teachers get comfortable with a single idea they can deploy in a range of subjects for a range of learning goals.
This blog focuses on the: cluster organizer.
The cluster is organized with a single idea in the middle and supporting or related ideas connected around the outside. The cluster organizer is especially helpful when you want to quickly capture ideas and information.
All About Me
Get started at the beginning of the school year with an All About Me cluster. Kids know their likes and interests, so the content aspect of the project is easier for them and enables you to focus on managing and supporting their new technology skills.
Describing the traits of a character in a book is a great place to begin when you are asking students to recall, retell, and demonstrate comprehension. By providing several text boxes, students are pushed to think of more than just one or two details. Older students can back up their trait descriptions with evidence from text.
Cluster diagrams help students build number sense and flexible thinking with mathematics by asking them to show value in multiple ways.
Taking notes is daunting, even for older students. A cluster organizer is a great way to help younger students record ideas they find in the texts they are reading or videos they are watching. Use a cluster where the number of text boxes will encourage students to capture the right amount of information on a topic.
Kick it up a notch with an associative letter approach that prevents a simple copy-paste of information and encourages students to think more deeply and creatively about a topic.
A cluster organizer can be a performance task, allowing even young students to show what they have learned.
A blank page can be an intimidating place to start for many emerging writers. Having a cluster diagram filled with information and ideas can make starting that first sentence, or second or third, much easier.
Cluster also makes a great brainstorming tool if students are working to ideate solutions to a problem.
As students grow in their abilities, they can create clusters on their own using text options like bubbles and fill colors.
Use a cluster organizer in situations where there are multiple right answers or options. For example, in a social-emotional context, ask students to describe the qualities of a good friend, positive ways to handle anger, or ideas for being kind.
Get the creative juices flowing
Clusters are great for getting students to ideate during the design thinking process, brainstorm ideas for pre-writing and find synonyms for vocabulary terms.
The Month-by-Month folders are filled with creative versions of the cluster organizer to reduce anxiety and make coming up with alternative ideas fun.
You can also use a keyword search like "cluster" or "ideate" to find even more.
Once students have created a cluster, use it to make the content on a more creative performance task easier to accomplish. For example, ask students to use the information on their cluster diagram to create a Wanted Poster or to complete a fictitious interview with a book character, animal, or historic figure.
What will you choose as the focus for your students' first cluster diagram?