I confess that graphic organisers have been under used in my teaching career and I am a little regretful that I only discovered their power in later years. I had used a few here and there, mostly in topic based lessons, rarely in English and maths. I started to explore them a little more, think about their power and how they can enhance the natural super powers that teachers already have.
Super power 1
There has to have been a provocation, stimulus, discussion or question for them to work. You can’t just give out a graphic organizer – a graphic organizer is part of a process not an end result in itself. The discussion, thinking and debate that must have occurred generates the starting point for the graphic organizer.
Super power 2
They encourage actual thinking. By now you will know my grievances with worksheets – the graphic organizer is in a different league of its own. Pupils will have gathered thoughts but the organizer take those thoughts and does something with them; it helps pupils organize their thinking, add to their thinking, challenge their thinking and sort their thinking.
Super power 3
By using super power 2 pupils are naturally learning how to think and are developing their metacognition. Handy little additions to the humble graphic organizer can take this further with a simple colour coding task, or finding an acronym to recall facts, spotting patterns or reflection box.
Super Power 4
Unlike many worksheets, there is not a right or wrong approach to the organizer, it removes threat, it gives pupils a voice, even if they are not willing to speak out.
Super Power 5
Graphic organisers naturally encourage collaboration, they allow for pupils to pool their thinking, sort their thinking and justify their thinking to peers.
Super Power 6
Great for any age. The design of a graphic organizer is generally simple and visual and not too cumbersome with instructions. Children of all ages think, children of all ages can be using graphic organisers. It chunks down those thoughts into manageable bites.
Super Power 7
If the graphic organisers are a standard piece of kit in your school – pupils will naturally use them independently.
Super Power 8
The graphic organizer is a tool not a task. Teachers and pupils need to view it as such for it to achieve of all it’s other super powers effectively.
There are a bank of lovely graphic organisers in the pedagogical resources section of this website to get you going. Give them a try and let me know what others you would like to see.