I remember sitting in a college class looking over and discussing all the uses of graphic organizers. They seemed like the best solution for students who had difficulty organizing information. Actually, they seemed like a great tool for any student!
I also remember handing out a graphic organizer to students and half of them started filling it in right away. It clicked for them. The organization made sense. Then I realized the other half of the students were wondering why their page had squares and circles on it. They had no idea what they were looking at or how to fill it in.
Step 1 to using graphic organizers, teach the students what a graphic organizer is. If some of your students already have a grasp of it, give them an assignment that uses a graphic organizer, while you teach the other half of the class how to use them. We use so many great tools in our lessons but we have to make sure all the students know how to use them effectively.
Which ones to use
I’ve also learned that you can’t just use any graphic organizer you want at anytime. Teach your students specific ones and then use those over and over in different lessons. For example, venn diagrams, t-charts, and main ideas with supporting details are good graphic organizers to teach and use frequently.
Graphic organizers are awesome, if the students know how to use them! The trick is, the students who really benefit from them, the ones who struggle with organizing information, are the ones that also need to be taught how to use them.
You can download 11 different types of graphic organizers from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Each organizer has the option of no lines or lines to differentiate for your students!
Of course I would love if you support my store but I also have to tell you, there are a bunch of free graphic organizers here too!
What’s the point?
Organizing information isn’t natural for many students. Their brains don’t automatically sort information into meaningful content that they can sort through and remember later. Many of their brains just dump all the information in one big pile and leave it there. I picture their minds to look something like the inside of their desks! We gotta give them the tools to organize all this information.
That is actually a good analogy. Think of organizing a student’s mind like helping them to organize their desk. Have you ever had to explain to a student how to organize their desk? “Throw out any old papers. Throw away any trash you find. Put all your pencils in one pile here. If you find library books, put them in the bin to be returned.” You know what I’m talking about. For some students, organization is not natural for their desk or their mind.
I’m gonna take a little side trail here and rant about how much we focus on certain strengths in the classroom and not others. Students who are organized, can manage their time, and are calm, often succeed in school. They have the behaviors and strengths that are required in a traditional classroom. The problem is, this isn’t every student. So many classrooms are set-up for students who have these specific strengths to succeed. I guess this is more of a caution to teachers to say, be careful what strengths you are focusing on. Make sure to find a way to include strengths of all students.
I found this graphic about the strengths of ADHD and it went straight to my heart. How often do I showcase the strengths of high energy, out of the box thinkers, and risk takers in my lessons? How can I include these as equally as organization and time management?
Back to graphic organizers
Keep the graphic organizers simple. My product and the free ones I listed above are good examples of simple graphic organizers. The point is to help their brains organize the information. If they are too complex, chances are they won’t end up helping.
Tips for using graphic organizers:
- Teach them what a graphic organizer is. Or it’s just a bunch of information in little boxes on a sheet of paper.
- Keep the graphic organizers simple.
- Pick a few that you use frequently throughout your lessons instead of always introducing new ones.