What’s A “Graphic Organizer”?

Most of us use graphic organizers in our daily home lives.  We may not consider them as such, however.  When we use a calendar on a smart phone and/or tablet, or even one on a wall, we are using a visual organization device.  We also may use schedule or chore charts set up for family members to view so all will know what is expected and when.

Graphic organizers are also used in the school setting, especially with middle and high school schedules.  In the classroom, teachers will often post the daily schedule so students can understand how the day will be structured. Providing a structure, whether in the form of a schedule, or the necessary steps in a task is an important element to acquiring new skills.

Why Use A Graphic Organizer?

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences suggests that students can learn and internalize information more effectively when more than one learning modality is employed.  In addition, our minds tend to naturally organize information before we store it in our memory. Our minds create structures to store any newly acquired information, and then attach it to previous knowledge.  Graphic organizers are visualizations which support students in remembering and connecting information.  When students are able to remember and assimilate information, they can be more able to do critical thinking.

How Does A Graphic Organizer Work?

Graphic organizers present material through the visual and spatial modalities, and using them helps students internalize what they are learning. Graphic organizers are meant to be visually stimulating, and they are designed to gain the student’s attention. Our brain is more equipped to process images rather than text, so as learners we will pay attention to novel and visually intriguing information.  By creating a strong visual picture, graphic organizers enable us to literally see connections and relationships between information, written text, and terminology.  Since graphic organizers integrate text and visual images, learners have a more whole-brain experience.

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Should Your Student Use A Graphic Organizer?

As students get older, the utilization of graphic organization tools diminishes in school, and more written instruction and text is used.  In addition, the requirement of writing essays and reports increases.  Writing a cohesive and comprehensive paper requires organization.  For many students, arranging ideas and information in writing seems a daunting task, and therefore is most challenging.  Using graphic organizers, outlines, and essay templates makes the process a more manageable task.  Some organizers break down steps to manageable “chunks”, and allow the student to visually arrange something which does not appear organized. There are several writing graphic organizing tools available, such as Inspiration – which we use here at QWERTY – both on the computer and tablet.  There are also quite a few websites which offer graphic organizers for math.

For some, perhaps for many of us, using a visual organizing tool is something to which we don’t give a second thought.  What are the graphic organizers that you have used?

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