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Tool for Reading Comprehension: Graphic Organizers

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1 Tool for Reading Comprehension: Graphic Organizers
OMHS – March 3, 2008

2 Graphic Responses Drawing and writing are branches of the same cognitive tree. Graphic mode better fits some students’ learning style. All learners have varying degrees of visual intelligence (Gardner, 1999). Our main job is to teach high school students to think, a rather formidable task. Especially in light of recent brain research which tells us the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls planning, working memory, organization, and mood modulation appears to be the LAST region of the brain to mature, undergoing major changes throughout puberty. This area of the brain is not mature until about 18 years of age. It behooves us teachers (and possibly parents of teenagers) to remind ourselves that they are not finished products, that they need guidance in making sense of all the data they are receiving. For some, perhaps even many, teenagers, a graphic response to new information is the difference between success and failure to understand.

3 The Importance of Visuals
Authors expect readers to visualize concrete and abstract ideas. Teachers must help students cultivate visual abilities as they learn. Visuals summarize text information by showing, not telling. Visuals are helpful in all three stages of reading: before, during, and after. Visualizing as they read is something that struggling readers don’t do.

4 Types of Visuals Pictures Videos Maps
Graphic organizers such as diagrams, charts and tables When we talk about visuals, we mean these:

5 Differences Pictures, videos, and maps show physical descriptions of a text’s information and images. Graphic Organizers are drawings that use geometric shapes or tables to show connections between pieces of information (Hyerle, 1996).

6 Benefits of Graphic Organizers
Support all learners, but especially those with special needs Provide structure and guidance as readers move toward greater independence Offer a visual means of explaining and organizing information and ideas Ask students to evaluate and actively manipulate information, thus seeing connections and relationships between ideas Graphic Organizers are perhaps one of the easiest ways to differentiate instruction. The opportunity to manipulate information as they learn it is an important aspect of GOs.

7 Continued Teach students to think categorically
Help to prepare for and facilitate writing, thinking, and discussing Help students remember and make greater cognitive associations between information and ideas Force students to evaluate information in order to determine what is important One really important benefit of teaching your students to use graphic organizers is that it gives them much-needed practice in identifying key elements of the text (or lecture) and reducing (or summarizing) them to fit the spaces provided for writing.

8 Continued Prepare students for the world of work, where such tools are used with increasing frequency Improve readers’ understanding of the text Help to develop students’ knowledge of textual structures and their general textual intelligence I have included one entitled Graphic Organizers for Text Structures near the front of the packet that I thought would accomplish this last benefit quite well.

9 When To Use GOs Classify ideas, words, and characters prior to writing about or discussing a text Organize a sequence in a process they are reading about Take parallel notes – comparing text with experiment or lecture Determine what is important in a text Understand the organizational pattern of the information or story Graphic Organizers are highly useful in vocabulary study.

10 Design Their Own Students who learn to make their own graphic organizers are far better at remembering and understanding the information in texts than those students who just fill out a GO made up by the teacher (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It reinforces their understanding of the material by requiring them to reconstruct the information in their own words and to create connections.

11 Assessing with Graphic Organizers
Can give you the chance to assess informally the ways in which students are understanding text information Simple rubrics or checklists that go with the graphics can be used Graphic Organizers can be easily used as formative assessments, something with which you will soon become very familiar.

12 Example Rubric for a Venn Diagram
Correctly identifies four shared features Correctly identifies three contrasting features on each side Uses examples and evidence from text to support statements Makes valid inferences and hypotheses Summarizes using own words Effectively explains to partner how to use the GO From such an assessment, you could quickly retrieve the information you need to determine if your students had accomplished your objectives for this assignment in a proficient manner.

13 Types of Graphic Responses
Clustering Semantic Webs and Organizers Story Maps Venn Diagrams Time Lines Flow Charts Drawing/Sketching Cartoons These are the most common categories and of course there are adaptations of each of these. We will look at some examples.

14 Clustering A special form of representing-to-learn
Right-brained outlining Key concept, term, or name in center circle with free association in outer circles in whatever pattern seems right Often reveals unrecognized connections and relationships Great for calling up prior knowledge or recollecting lost information Look at the hastily done cluster activity on the Civil War in your packet. This activity is very effective to harness brainstorming, to organize ideas as you discuss, or to review after the lesson. I present it in this form to show how you and your students can draw this spontaneously and not rely on pre-produced forms. Students can make this organization their own and use it in situations other than class.

15 Semantic Webs and Organizers
Maps or diagrams of ideas that help us remember terms, concepts, ingredients, or relationships Help students chart content or knowledge in order to plug it into their brain or memorize it Used for hierarchically organizing information Outlines presented in visual form There are at least 3 examples in your packet. The first simple one has a geometry example, there is one example that is used with vocabulary from chemistry class, and there is one from the general blank form from the Makes Sense Strategies stack that could be adapted in any class.

16 Story Maps Diagrams or maps of the events in a story or narrative, often done chronologically Can apply to both literature and to historical narrative Instead of a traditional story map, which you are probably familiar with, I included an example of an Idea Map that could be used in any content.

17 Venn Diagrams Two or three interlocking circles to display the contrasts and similarities Help you to map out a comparison/contrast text structure Venn Diagrams offer one more way to compare different subjects. You have several examples in your packet, two in circles and one in squares. This format is possibly the most familiar to your students because 1. it is intuitive 2. it is used in many classes, particularly favorite with math teachers, and 3. it is easy to draw on the spot, thus another organizer they can make their own to use anywhere, anytime. Jim Burke suggests that the Venn Diagram not be limited to two circles with one common area. He shows a three circle Venn that is particularly useful to prepare students to write an answer to a basic question that the text can answer. For instance, the students could respond answer the question based on what they find in the text, how it relates to the reader’s life, and how it relates to the larger world.

18 Time Lines Another familiar combination of graphics and writing, applied to chronology Works best when cartoons or other illustrations are added Probably your history and English teachers already use this one. Notice the suggestion of adding visuals to make a stronger connection for the students.

19 Flow Charts Help you keep track of the sequence of events
Ideas or events arranged in their logical, sequential order with arrows drawn between ideas to indicate how one idea or even flows into another There is an example of a blank flow chart form from the Makes Sense Strategies in your packet. Also, there are two blank forms that are variations: Chain Reaction and Causes of an Event.

20 Drawing/Sketching The graphic equivalent of free writing
Original drawings to illustrate ideas found in reading, discussion, and inquiry Can be used to probe passages or quotations in reading materials Labels or captions can be mixed with lines and forms

21 Cartoons Another combination of words and drawing,
Can be quick response or fine art Can be a key strategy to get reluctant writers to put words on a page (balloons or captions)

22 Think in Threes Asks students to go beyond either/or thinking (yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad) Encourages students to consider a subject from more than one side This example came from the Jim Burke GO book, and I think it works well with upper level students to expand their thinking. The idea originated in the business world. For example, Disney uses this model: when making a film, they think not only of the film but also about the product line and its corresponding attraction at the theme park. A school example of its benefit would be when students are asked to compare two cultures for instance, they generally end up saying that one is bad and one is good. Adding a third culture for them to compare challenges them to think differently about the countries, noting differences and similarities but avoiding the narrow thinking that one country is good and another bad. The last one in your packet is the Always/Sometimes/ Never. I just like that one.

23 Warning! Don’t turn graphic organizers into worksheets.
They can be misinterpreted and overused. They should be used sparingly and judiciously, with careful attention to how well they fit your purpose. Train students to draw their own, rather than rely on wholesale photocopying. Use visuals more than once. The idea is to teach students to make these strategies their own, so they need to use a particular type frequently enough that they become adept at using it without prompting.

24 Sources Makes Sense Strategies –
Tools for Thought: Graphic Organizers for Your Classroom by Jim Burke Janet Allen –

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