Unit One- Understanding Graphic Organizers

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Main Page-Anthony Traina

Utilizing Graphic Organizers

Unit Two- Creating Graphic Organizers

Unit Three- Utilizing Graphic Organizers in the Classroom


Unit One- Understanding Graphic Organizers

Performance objectives for this unit:

  • 1. What are graphic organizer?
  • 2. What does the research say about graphic organizers?
  • 3. Types of graphic organizers.

Prerequisites for this unit

  • Comprehension of teaching subject/area.

There are three compelling reasons why you should use graphic organizers.

  • 1. Students are more likely to understand and remember the content subject that you are teaching. Visual graphics help students separate what is important to understand from what is non-essential information.
  • 2. The semantic information processing workloads are reduced, which in turn allows for the opportunity to address the content in a more complex level.
  • 3. Students are more likely to become strategic learners. Reading and writing skills, communication skills, analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills are all subject to improve when students learn to recognize these patterns of thinking, constructing, and using graphic organizers.


What are graphic organizers?

Graphic organizers are communication devices that show the organization or structure of concepts as well as relationships between concepts. Spatial arrangements depicting the information’s structure reduce 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 organizers are such powerful devices for students with language-based learning disabilities. Graphic organizers allow the student to visually process the information in a clear, manageable, structured manner which in the long run will help to retain information.


What does the research say about graphic organizers?

One reason that GO’s, concept maps, and knowledge maps may be better than linear displays such as outlines and lists when provided to students as complete notes is that they may be stored in memory in a more spatial format. Recent studies by Robinson and his colleagues (Robinson, Katayama, & Fan, 1996; Robinson, Robinson, & Katayama, 1999) suggest that retrieving information after studying GO’s interferes more with a concurrent spatial memory task then retrieving information after studying outlines. Storing text information in both spatial and verbal formats as opposed to just verbal formats may provide the students with an additional retrieval path for recalling the information. That conjoint (verbal and spatial) retention of text information facilities recall because two routes are better than one (Kulhavy, Lee, & Caterino, 1985). (Getting students “partially” Involved)

The graphic organizer has its roots in schema theory[1]. In effect, schema theory states that new information must be linked to preexisting knowledge. The teacher’s task is to ensure that the child has prior knowledge related to the concept and to provide a means to assist the child in making the necessary connections between what is being taught and the child’s prior knowledge. (GO’s to the rescue)

Helping the student link new information to an existing knowledge base is one-way teachers can assist students in learning new information in content-area classes. The use of a graphic organizer is an underlying premise of schema theory. Understanding this theory can assist teachers in their presentation of the material and may help students make the necessary linkage for learning to occur (U.S. department of Education, 1987)

Types of graphic organizers

Graphic organizers can be grouped into two categories: Those that depict the six basic information structures (whole-to-part, cause/effect, etc.) and those that serve specialized needs (i.e., a graphic which structures project planning, a graphic which structures goal setting, etc.).

There are a wide variety of designs for depicting the same basic information structures. For example, if you look through several different social studies texts, you will likely find a wide variety of compare/contrast graphics, each designed a little differently, but all serving the same basic purpose of visually revealing to students how the information is structured.

Graphic organizers depicting other information structures also come in a wide array of designs. For example, both the semantic web and the Whole-to-Part graphics depict a hierarchical information structure.

Here are some pre-made graphic organizers that you can use in your classroom.

Unit One- Tasks

  • Graphic Organizer Activity:
  • Now that you know a little bit more about graphic organizers, choose three topics/lessons in your subject area that you feel would possibly make a good graphic organizer. For this unit simply write down the three topics and put them aside for later.
  • Learning Journal:
  • Please take a few minutes to write down a few thoughts you might be having about this process. The prompts below are only suggestions. This is your journal feel free to add to or subtract anything that is listed below.
  • What have you learned during this unit?
  • What questions do you still have about graphic organizers?
  • Can you begin to see how graphic organizers can be useful within your classroom?