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Tip of the Week: 5 graphic organizers you’re probably not using but should be

graphic organizer logo

Most of you are already familiar with the idea of document analysis worksheets. These sorts of tools are perfect for scaffolding historical thinking skills for your kids. Some of the best, created by the Library of Congress and the National Archives, have been around for years. I also really like the stuff created by the Stanford History Education group, especially their Historical Thinking Chart.

We should be using all of those evidence analysis tools with our kids. They can be especially helpful for training elementary and middle school students to gather and organize evidence while solving authentic problems. And for high school kids without a strong background in historical thinking skills, the tools provided by the LOC, NARA, and SHEG are incredibly useful to guide thinking.

But what about other types of graphic organizers? Are there some organizers you should be using but aren’t? Spoiler alert. Yes.

Before we jump into the fabulous five, a quick graphic organizer 101 review.

Brain research tells us that mental images are powerful tools that support cognitive tasks and that by creating unique mental pictures, our students deepen their understanding, attach new information to prior knowledge, and create new learning. Graphic organizers are “visual and spatial displays that arrange information graphically so that key concepts and the relationships among the concepts are displayed” (Gunter, Estes, and Mintz 2007).

They can present information textually, with images or symbols, or a combination of both. Graphic organizers give kids a clear strategy to gather, process, organize, and prioritize information. All things that are encouraged by Common Core lit standards, the NCSS national standards, and the Kansas social studies document.

Okay . . . what five graphic organizers should all social studies teachers be using but probably aren’t?

I’ve seen lots of document analysis worksheets but this is the first one that I’ve seen that focuses making sense of government policies. The Civic Action project put together this sweet graphic organizer called GRADE that seems perfect for civic and government classes.

  • Goal
    What is the goal of the policy?
  • Rivals
    Who might (or does) support the policy? Who might (or does) oppose it?
  • Advantages
    What are the policy’s benefits? What is good about the policy?
  • Disadvantages
    What are the policy’s costs? What is bad about the policy?
  • Evaluate
    Weigh the advantages versus the disadvantages. Are there alternative policies?

Get a PDF of the full meal deal here.

History Frame
Many language arts teachers having been using what they call story maps for years. When looking at literature, students are often asked to focus on the elements of the story such as setting, character, plot, and theme.

The cool thing is that historians look at these same things. Why not adapt a proven strategy and use the same sort of structure with our own students? Use the History Frame to break down specific events or events over time by asking questions such as:

  • where and when did the event take place?
  • who was involved?
  • what was the problem or goal that set events in motion?
  • what were the key events?
  • how was it resolved?
  • what’s the Big Idea / so what / the reason this event matters?

history frame example

Get Reading Quest’s version of History Frame.

Multiple Points of View
We’re having our kids read more about contemporary issues and events. But most of them have trouble separating bias and opinion from facts. The Multiple Points of View can help develop this skill. (The New York Times has put together a great list of useful tools for helping kids make sense of print and online news.)

Inquiry Chart
I-Charts offer a planned framework for examining critical questions by integrating what is already known or thought about the topic with additional information found in several sources. On a given topic, students will have several questions to explore. These are found at the top of each individual column.

The rows are for recording, in summary form, the information you think you already know and the key ideas pulled from several different sources of information. The final row gives you a chance to pull together the ideas into a general summary. It’s at this time you’ll also try to resolve competing ideas found in the separate sources or, even better, develop new questions to explore based on any conflicting or incomplete information.

Opinion / Proof
This organizer is a great way to support historical thinking skills by asking them to share their opinions while supporting those opinions with facts. The basic idea is that an opinion can be put forward, but it should be a supported opinion – based on ideas, facts, or concepts found in the assigned evidence or based on student research. The Opinion / Proof organizer is perfect as a pre-writing activity for persuasive essays, RAFTS such as editorials, or to prepare for class debates such as the Fence Sitter.

You could even assign specific opinions to your students, forcing them to find evidence to support opinion that they might not support. This would work well with the Multiple Points of View tool that we’re using for current events.

opinion proof

Can’t get enough? Try this site for even more organizers:

Have fun!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ryan #

    Good stuff as always. Another one I really like that you posted a while back was Debbie Abilock’s photo analysis organizer.

    August 29, 2015
  2. Reblogged this on wtcbank.

    September 26, 2015

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