Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beyond Venn Diagrams

I have always liked teaching with graphic organizers. I think they are a great way to visually represent concepts, and I also think that when used well, they can help teachers structure lessons more effectively. ReadWriteThink is a rich resource for graphic organizers and other printable classroom material, and I've collected a few of my favorite finds here.

Connecting To Material


The Connection Stems printable is a great way to do guided comprehension in a reading class, and I think this could work just as well with a listening class. The prompts are in very simple language, so it would be ideal in a lower level class or perhaps with higher level students grappling with a complicated topic. The Making Connections printable is more sophisticated, introducing the concepts of text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections, and it asks students to pick out specific quotes from a text and articulate their connections to those quotes (great for developing paraphrasing and citation skills). 

Developing Research Skills


The KWL technique is one most of us are probably familiar with, and perhaps some of us use it in class already. Before you assign research to students - whether independent or guided - you can use a KWL Chart to get students to think about their thinking. The technique involves identifying what you already know and what you want to know; after the research is completed, you identify what you learned. This technique helps students to focus their research, and evaluate their own learning process.

The I-Search printable is a neat tool to help students organize their thinking before they embark on research. The organizer helps students realize that sub-questions follow from main questions; I also like that it asks students to brainstorm search terms before beginning a search.

Focusing Discussions

The Seed Discussion organizer is a tool for helping to organize class discussions on a new topic. The site suggests a strategy for its use. The teacher places blank chart paper with the titles from the printout around the room: Information That I Don't Understand, Things That Seem Surprising Or Interesting, Vocabulary That I Want To Know, and Things That Remind Me Of Other Things I Know. After the students have time to examine the new material (chapter in a book, YouTube clip, etc.), they individually fill out printouts. Then, in groups or as a whole class, they can put their results on the chart paper on the walls. The students have structured what they need and want to know, and this gives the teacher an insight into how to focus the teaching of the new material. I especially like the way this pulls out the needed vocabulary for the teacher.

Exit Slips

This is a widely used K-12 tool, and it's so simple. The use of exit slips allows students to reflect on what happened in class and write about it, and they also serve as a quick formative assessment for the teacher. You can choose to hand the same exit slip out to each student, or you can get differentiated feedback by handing out a variety.

I hope you find at least one of these graphic organizers useful, and that you try it out in your classes. Let us know how it goes!

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