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Using Graphic Organizers to Design Student Success

Graphic organizers can be great tools for guiding student success, especially for students with learning differences and behavioral issues. These organizers are templates, either paper or digital, that provide a graphic structure with which students can record and manipulate information. In addition to being part of effective organizational strategies for a range of subjects, graphic organizers successfully facilitate the achievement of study behavior goals.

Graphic Organizers for English Studies

Graphic organizers have experienced a growing popularity as an aid for English studies in recent years. The combination of learning exercises comprised of language studies with activities focused on kinesthetic and visual skills enhances information processing and retention by engaging several areas of the brain at once. The increasing use of graphic text in the Language Arts classroom has also contributed to the effectiveness of graphic organizers in guiding student success.

Some examples of successful Language Arts graphic organizers:

  • Plot Diagram
  • Freytag's Pyramid
  • Venn Diagram
  • Mind Mapping Shakespeare

Learning to design cartoon strips, television programs, advertisements and film strips have been important media literacy strategies for years. By transforming a text such as a novel or poem into a graphic representation, students practice creative and critical thinking skills that help them understand and remember what they have learned.

Graphic Organizers for Math, History and the Sciences

Botanical sketches and experimental process sketches will always be important, but graphic organizers in many subjects have gone digital. Nothing makes history come alive quite like creating an interactive, digital timeline of a historically important event or the making of a 360-degree virtual tour of a local site. Apps are now available that make planning a cumulative assessment activity for a unit of study easy and affordable. Some graphic organizers popular for Math, History and the Sciences are:

  • The Fishbone
  • KWL Chart
  • Venn Diagram
  • Math Journals
  • Timeline
  • Political cartoons
  • Textbook Chapter Summary Organizers
  • Cause and Effect Diagram

Using Graphic Organizers to Achieve Behavioral Goals

"Behavioral Contracts" may be meaningless to a student struggling academically and behaviorally. The contract is typically understood by the parents or the teacher but is difficult for the student to process or remember.

Understanding why behavior interrupts learning time is essential to effective circumvention. Sensory processing issues can make a student unable to focus on learning. Sometimes, a student does not understand the relationship between behavior during study time and lack of success. Other times, the student is exhibiting signs of academic impairment — perhaps a lack of memory — that make it challenging to understand behavioral consequences. Graphic organizers improve study behavior and encourage academic success.

The Stop-Start-Continue chart is one graphic organizer that has been effective for teachers, parents and students. It is a page of paper divided into three columns, each labeled "stop," "start," or "continue" — the order of the columns can be adjusted. This chart helps students keep track of study progress.

This strategy works because it encourages the student to take direct action and make immediate choices. They reflect on how they spend study time and set reasonable goals for improvement. This strategy also encourages forward thinking and the celebrating of ongoing successes.

Reviewing the "Stop-Start-Continue" chart on a regular basis and guiding the student in setting new goals are important steps in this strategy.

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