Thursday, August 16, 2012

Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers are great tools for teaching your little one reading/listening comprehension skills. I conducted a lot of research on graphic organizers during my graduate program, and, among other numerous findings on how they can greatly benefit a child's learning in all subject areas, I also found them to be useful during any stage of learning. Basically, if your child can talk, it is not too soon to introduce her to a graphic organizer. You'll just have to do the writing for now.  

A graphic organizer is simply anything that organizes information in a visual way. They can range from very simple, such as the "topic flower" one in the picture below, to extremely complex flow charts and story maps. The possibilities are endless. You and your child can even make up your own, which would demonstrate mastery in a particular skill area. For example, I will be one proud momma the day Big L creates a detailed story map when given just a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Creating a graphic organizer from scratch is much more difficult than filling in information in designated spaces. Obviously, it will take a lot of work to get him to that point. For now, we are starting with a skill-appropriate graphic organizer. (Notice that I said "skill-appropriate" and not "age-appropriate." There is a definite difference. I could write an entire post just about my thoughts on this matter!)

We used this "topic flower" to recall content vocabulary used in a Reading A-Z book titled, "We Make Cookies" (Fountas and Pinnell reading level B). This particular organizer I printed from Reading A-Z, but a similar one (called a "spider map") can be found here, along with many others that are FREE to print. Or, you can just make your own by sketching one on a blank sheet of paper. 

After L read the book aloud to me, I asked him to tell me everything that the characters used to make cookies and that I would write them down. He looked back in the book for a few ingredients that he couldn't recall. Then, he told me that he would want to add chocolate chips if he were to make cookies. (This is where it would have been nice if we had made our own flower, because then we could have added more pedals. There just happened to be the right amount of pedals for the book we were reading, but not enough for extending our thinking beyond the text.)

Maybe I need to write a post about comprehension skills so you will all understand way I was so proud of my 3-year-old being able to do what he did during this lesson, But for now, just print off a few graphic organizers and start using them with the books that your child reads. You will be surprised by the depth of comprehension your child will start to show you! Or, if your child is lacking in the area of reading comprehension, it will quickly become evident and you will know what you need to work on with him.

Graphic Organizers can:
  • encourage learners to think about information in new ways
  • be used to demonstrate learning, or recall information
  • encourage new ideas (brainstorming)
  • show the "big picture" (lots of information shown in a small amount of space with fewer words)
  • support visual learners, or strengthen visual learning for those who are not naturally inclined
  • foster more strategic learners when children start to recognize different patterns of thinking
In summary...

Graphic Organizers -> Any age -> Use with book -> Make kid smarter -> Kid will become rocket scientist (or at least a good reader) -> Kid will be able to afford nice retirement home for you one day

See what I did there?

Remember, there are no "rules" for graphic organizers. Spaces can be added or deleted. You can write in word, phrases, or sentences. You can crumble up the paper when you are done, or hang it on the fridge. It's not what is put on the paper, but the thinking that is done because of the paper!

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