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Helping Students Learn: Graphic Organizers

graphic 2One way to help all students in your classroom learn is to implement graphic organizers in your instruction and activities. Graphic organizers are visual models to help students organize their thoughts, to see the relationships in their ideas and to teach them the thinking beyond the structure. Graphic organizers can be used in a wide number of ways such as: to take notes, to determine the information they already know about a topic, to see the inter-relationships between thoughts, to compare and contrast information and a review of a topic.

One of the graphic organizers I currently implement is shown below. I developed this organizer for students to record their thoughts and insights immediately upon entering the class. This “set” activity gets the students thinking about the topic of the day (opensure) or to reflect upon learning we had in the last class (closure.) During the time the students are filling in the information, I take attendance, respond to students who have special requests or who have been absent, or to set up last minute ingredients or items. This helps both the students and me to make the most of our class time.

I have the students draw the diagram on a sheet of lined paper and then fill in the date, the question of the day and then their response. I called the activity, “First I Think.” Once they are done with the activity I may call upon people to share their thoughts, have them share their thoughts with people at the table, or simply put it away as it was a personal reflection question. Questions could include anything you have covered or will be covering in class. I used the graphic organizer at the beginning of the year to think about classroom expectations using questions such as “What does quality work look like?” and “How does a student show they are respectful?” We just started the foods units and a question before our first lab was “What makes it difficult to work with others?” This led to a great discussion and talking about doing the opposite of the behaviors they listed to be a good team member. After the first lab the question was, “During the lab I showed that I was a team player when I…” I typically have the questions projecting in my classroom so all students can see the question and the date and let the students know how many responses they should list.

In addition to being a great learning activity, doing this activity on a daily basis helps to establish a classroom routine and predictability for the students. It also helps me to monitor the students learning and areas where I may need to reteach or have the ability to move on quicker. I collect their sheets after every four entries and give them a rubric score. The graphic organize helps students to visually remember to enter the date (small box) and to be sure they have all of the entries. Organization can be a challenge for seventh graders and this is a good strategy to help them visually see that have all of the components of the activity. Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel…go to to find some graphic organizers you may want to try in your classroom.

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