Using Graphic Organisers
Why use graphic organisers?
Graphic organisers are useful tools to include in teaching, learning and assessment activities.
- Graphic organisers can support teacher instruction in a visual and structured manner. Students can refer to the graphic organiser when required to assist them to complete a task.
- Learners are more likely to remember the content that is being taught as it is presented using colour and images. For more information on Brain-based Learning theory see Brain-based learning (www.funderstanding.com/brain_based_learning.cfm)
- The support provided when using graphic organisers reduces the cognitive demands on the learner. The learner does not have to process as much semantic information to understand the information. This is one of the reasons why graphic organisers are such powerful devices for students with language-based learning disabilities.
- Differentiation of a task is inherently built into the structure of graphic organisers, allowing flexibility for the learner to produce work at their own level.
- Many graphic organisers lend themselves to cooperative learning, enabling students to benefit from communication with others clarifying their own thinking.
- Information processing skills, patterns for organising information, analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as communication skills are addressed when teaching and using the graphic organisers.
- Graphic organisers can be used to assess knowledge of content, thinking skills and habits of the mind such as thinking interdependently, striving for accuracy or thinking flexibly.
- Templates can be created electronically or specific software such as Inspiration or Kidspiration can be used by students to create graphic organisers.
Using the examples and templates
Suggestions for using the graphic organiser examples and templates in the classroom include:
Create a ‘Thinking Wall’
Figure 1: Thinking Wall
Display the resources that support the thinking skills that are planned to be the focus for teaching and learning activities. This encourages both the teacher and students to refer to them and acts as a timely reminder.
Allow students to choose a graphic organiser that suits their thinking. For example, some students might enjoy the free-form nature of completing a recount of an excursion using a Mind Map, whereas more mathematical-logical thinkers may prefer to use a Lotus diagram for the same task. Have available for students a folder with photocopied blank templates or electronic templates for each graphic organiser. Not every graphic organiser needs to be explicitly taught. Provide completed examples and allow students to use and explore unfamiliar graphic organisers.
Encourage students to use the language of thinking by asking a few students to consider a question about the particular resource that is being used and to share their thoughts with the class at a later stage. For example:
- Looking at the Bloom’s Taxonomy chart which level of thinking do you believe we are operating at when we complete this task? Why?
The discussion that follows is invaluable in clarifying thinking.
Complete all sections of the graphic organiser to consider the problem after the initial response has been recorded. When students complete the sections of the graphic organiser the directions of their thinking will be challenged resulting in more lateral and in-depth thought.
Design graphic organisers to suit individual students or the specific problem. Encourage students to:
- design their own graphic organisers
- modify existing graphic organisers
- use graphic organisers in multiple contexts.