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Posts tagged ‘graphic organizers’

It’s not always what you see that bites you in the butt. All in with the Dorsal Fin

The reason why the movie Jaws is so incredibly spooky? Because for most of the film, we never really see the main character. Just the scary music and the occasional dorsal fin. We can’t see what’s under the water but we know something’s there.

Something big and hungry.

History is a little like that. It’s easy to see the surface stuff. People, places, dates. But it’s the stuff that our students don’t see that is usually the biggest and most important. Underlying causes. Past events. Hidden connections. All of these contribute to how things happened and continue to happen.

I recently ran across a handy graphic organizer idea that I think can help kids intentionally think about these hidden, under the surface pieces. The Facing History folks have titled this teaching strategy the Iceberg because it can help students organize and make sense of the different factors that lead to particular events. The strategy is also great for training kids to balance informative and literary texts, for building content knowledge, for generating text-based responses, and supporting the use of evidence.

It’s also great for organizing notes as student learn about a period in history, as a review, or as an assessment tool.

And yes. I get it. An Iceberg is only Read more

8 tasty graphic organizers for primary sources

Deb Brown, a good friend from the Shawnee Mission, Kansas district, shared a statement with me several years ago and it’s rattled around in my head ever since.

“Primary sources belong to everyone. Not just the smart kids.”

I like that.

Something else she said caught my attention.

“Kids should read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.”

With the new Kansas state standards in full force and the NCSS C3 document just out, this sort of thinking needs to part of every teacher’s world view.

Around the same time, Deb shared some of the things that teachers in her district were using to help kids make sense of all sorts of historical evidence. They fit perfectly into the first C of the 4C’s framework I’m developing for social studies teachers:

  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Create
  • Communicate

And using graphic organizers help meet Common Core literacy standards. So I’ve borrowed what she shared and put them together with a few other things to come up with a list of eight highly effective strategies. Together, they provide students with a variety of powerful data collection tools that they can use as they work to solve problems. Read more

Ford Institute and Best Practices: Part II – Graphic Organizers & VoiceThread

The ultimate history geek dream – insider access to a Presidential Library archive.

We’ve spent the day listening to Dr. George Herring and poking around in the corners of the Ford Library in Ann Arbor. It doesn’t get much cooler. Finding out more about little known events (i.e. Operation BabyLift) and playing with documents.

We’re also having some fun conversations about effective strategies.

Cinthia Salinas together with Ryan Crowley, both from the University of Texas and the very sweet Presidential Timeline website, started by highlighting a variety of useful graphic organizers handy for primary source analysis.

Developed by the College Board as a way to help AP kids master the process of analyzing primary sources, the APPARTS strategy works well when working with text documents.

SOAP and SOAPSTONE also help kids work with textual resources.

OPVL. This is a new one for me but I like it. Probably better for high school. It focuses on the origins, purpose, values, and limitations of a document.

There are others such as TACOS, POSERS, and MUSEUMS. Find out about these and more types of graphic organizers specific to different types of primary sources.

Cinthia and Ryan transitioned into how to use these types of thinking skills with a Web 2.0 tool called VoiceThread. Many of you may already have an idea of how it works but if you’re new to VoiceThread, it’s basically a quick way of encouraging online conversations: Read more

NCHE Session V – Graphic organizers and primary sources

The finish line is in sight. Last session. Great day so far. Met a ton of new people and have had the chance to re-connect with old friends.

Deb Brown and Amanda Jesse, an old friend and a new friend, from the Shawnee Mission, Kansas district are sharing a wide variety of great graphic organizers to help kids make sense of history stuff. Some really nice stuff here.

Primary sources belong to everyone. Not just the smart kids.

I like that. They also stress the idea that they want

kids to read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.

They call their graphic organizers “pathway strategies” and shared eight different types for a variety of primary / secondary sources. I included a basic overview of each, at least an idea of what the acronym stands for.

POSERS  – visuals, photos, paintings

  • People
  • Objects
  • Setting – place and/or time
  • Engagement / Action
  • Relationships
  • Summary

They suggest using a cheap magnifying glass for kids up to 8th grade and maybe even high school.

We want kids to think of themselves as detectives. What better way to do that than to give them a magnifying glass?

They used a photo from 1878 highlighting a buffalo skin dealer and John Gast’s Manifest Destiny painting.

MUSEUMS – artifacts and objects

  • Materials
  • Used by
  • Setting
  • Exact Description
  • Used for
  • Modern equivalent
  • Significance / Story of the artifact

They demonstrated the process using the artifact below excavated at the Jamestown site. Any guesses?

LUKCAS – Charts and graphs

  • Label
  • Units
  • Key
  • Content
  • Assumptions or attitudes
  • Summary


  • Title
  • Orientation
  • Author
  • Date
  • Scale
  • Key
  • Insets / Index

SOAPS grades 4-6 / APPARTS middle school and high school – Documents


  • Source
  • Occasion
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Speaker


  • Author
  • Place and Time
  • Prior Knowledge
  • Audience
  • Reason
  • The Main Idea
  • Significance

SPRITES – Events

  • Settings
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Intellectual
  • Technology
  • Economic
  • Summary

TACOS – cartoons

  • Time
  • Action
  • Caption
  • Objects
  • Summary

Some awesome stuff! And a great way to end a very long day.

(The artifact from Jamestown? A luxury item used by the rich to clean out earwax and pick their teeth.)

Tip of the Week – Interactive Student Notebooks

One of the stereotypes of high school classes, especially history classes, is that most instruction consists of dry, boring lectures. The teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as played by Ben Stein comes to mind.

In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the . . . Anyone? Anyone? . . . the Great Depression, passed the . . . anyone? Anyone?

The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered? . . . raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects?

And while direct instruction delivered this way has very little impact on long-term learning, we also understand that kids need to be able to gather and organize basic information so that they can apply that information in creative ways.

We also know that graphic organizers are great tools for this task. One form of graphic organizer that works very well is something called Interactive Student Notebooks. I was reminded of ISNs this week when I got an email from a teacher looking for ways to integrate technology into their use.

ISNs are the anti-thesis to the old style outline notes that we were taught as students and many teachers still use. Interactive Student Notebooks allow students to record information in an engaging way that’s based on brain research.

At a very basic level, an ISN is simply a notebook or binder with each page divided in half – a right side and a left side. The right side or “input” side should be used for taking class notes, notes from a video or discussion or from assigned readings. This can be done in a traditional outline format but teachers can also model a variety of visual models such as flow charts, annotated slides or other simple graphic organizers. Basically the rights side is where a student puts information that everyone in the class needs to know.

The left side or “output” side is where application of that information begins to happen and where students start the processing of new ideas. You should ask students to use illustrations, diagrams, charts, poetry, colors, matrices, cartoons, and the like. Have kids articulate their opinions, agree or disagree on controversial issues, ponder hypothetical situations and ask questions about new ideas. Early in the process, you will need to model what these activities might look like. These activities help kids understand that simply writing down lecture notes does not mean they have learned the information.

So what does it look like?

This example from the History Alive people shows a student taking class notes on late nineteenth-century industrialism on the right side of her notebook. Later as homework, she created a topical net on the left side using the information from the right side.

Why use ISNs?

  • ISNs encourage students to use both the visual and linguistic parts of the brains.
  • Note taking becomes a much more active process. Students become directly involved in constructing their own knowledge. Much of the work is actually doing something with the information.
  • ISNs encourage students to become more organized in the learning process. Kids begin to see relationships in the process of doing history. Many teachers also ask that students use highlighters, subject headings, underline and colored markers.
  • Over time, ISNs become a portfolio of the student’s work. You, the kid and parents can track progress throughout the school. ISNs also provide an excellent review tool.

There are tons of ways that you can use the left hand side of the ISN (courtesy of History Alive):

  • Advertisements
    Design advertisements to represent migration, settlement, or the significance of a specific site.
  • Annotated Illustrations
    Make annotated illustrations to recount a story of travel or migration, to represent a moment in time or to label architectural features.
  • Annotated Slides
    Use simple sketches of powerful images, accompanied by annotations, to help students understand difficult content.
  • Book / CD / Video Games covers – design the layout using information from the right side.
  • Caricatures
    Draw caricatures to present the main characteristics of a group in history or how an individual or group was perceived by another group.
  • Eulogies
    Write eulogies to extol the virtues of prominent historical figures or civilizations.
  • Facial Expressions
  • Draw facial expressions to summarize the feelings of groups who have different perspectives on a single event.
  • Flow Charts
    Create flow charts to show causal relationships or to show steps in a sequence.
  • Forms of Poetry
    Write various forms of poetry to describe a person, place, event or feeling of a moment.
  • Historical Journals
    Assume the role of a historical figure to keep a journal that recounts the figure’s feelings and experiences in language of the era.
  • Illustrated Dictionary Entries
    Explain key terms by created illustrated dictionary entries. Write adefinition, provide a synonym and an antonym, and draw an illustration to represent each term.
  • Illustrated Outlines
    Use simple drawings and symbols to graphically highlight or organize class notes.
  • Illustrated Proverbs
    Create illustrated proverbs to explain complex concepts.
  • Illustrated Timelines
    Create illustrated timelines to sequence a series of events in chronological order.
  • Invitations
    Design invitations that highlight the main goals and key facts of important historical events.
  • Mind Notes
    Draw and label outlines of the heads of important historical figures. Fill in the outline with quotations and paraphrased thoughts from that person.
  • Mosaics
    Synthesize information from a broad content area by creating mosaics. Use visuals and words to represent similarities, differences and important concepts.
  • Perspective Pieces
    Design drawings or write newspaper articles to represent different perspectives on controversial figures, events and concepts.
  • Pictowords
    Create pictowords (symbolic representations of words or phrases tha show their meaning) to help define difficult concepts.
  • Political Cartoons and Comic Strips
    Create political cartoons and comic strips to provide social or political commentary on important historical events.
  • Postcards
    After studying specific content, write postcards to summarize information about places or events.
  • Provocative Statements
    Have students react to provocative statements to introduce historical themes or to critically assess a historical period.
  • Report Card
    Use graded evaluations to assess the policies of leaders or governments.
  • Sensory Figures
    Create sensory figures (simple drawings of prominent historical figures with descriptions of what they might be seeing, hearing, saying,feeling, or doing) to show the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of historical figures.
  • Spectrums
    Place information on a spectrum to show multiple perspectives on a topic or to express an opinion about an issue.
  • Spoke Diagrams
    Create spoke diagrams as a visual alternative to outlining.
  • Venn Diagrams
    Develop Venn diagrams to compare and contrast people, concepts, places or groups.
  • “What If?” Statements
    Use “what if?” statements to apply newfound knowledge to hypothetical historical situations.

Have fun!

Tip of the Week – Twitter template and Tweet summaries

I haven’t decided quite yet whether this is sacrilegious or not. But a guy named Chris Juby has decided to use Twitter to summarize the entire Bible, one chapter at a time.

We’ve talked in the past about using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter as instructional tools. But it’s always been a way to simulate or recreate the actions of thinking of historical people and this Bible thing has got me thinking a bit.

When asked about the project, Chris said

It’s a really tough process deciding what the key themes of each chapter are and what can be left out.

Many kids have trouble with summarizing, trying to do exactly what Chris is doing with Twitter – trying to figure out what is really important.

What if you used the Twitter concept to help kids summarize text? It’s a idea that they understand, with many of them already using the tool or texting via cell phones.

And while Twitter is probably blocked in most of your schools, it’s not tough to create some sort of usable blank template based on the Twitter page. In an earlier post, I posted directions on how to create a Facebook template. Follow those instructions to make one yourself or you can simply download a PDF version of a blank Twitter template that I quickly put together.

Have kids read the text, watch the video or listen to the lecture. Have them stop at appropriate times in the text or during the video and, using the template, ask them to create a “tweet” of the most important themes or ideas presented in that section of content. (But have them leave the big empty space at the top blank for now.)

Students can “publish” their tweets by having a partner read what they wrote. Encourage conversation and comparison between partners about what each wrote. Repeat the process until the content has been completed delivered.

I would then have partners exchange their Twitter “pages” one last time. Students should create a question for each of the tweets created by their partner. This will provide a quick way for students to review the information – having both a simple summary and a question that can help trigger additional information.

An example might be a tweet that I created stating

Gettysburg is big 3-day battle in PA, July 1863. 20th Maine holds, Pickett’s Charge fails, north survives Confederate invasion

My partner would create a question in the margin along the lines of

Why was the Battle of Gettysburg so important?

The final step would for each student to go to the top of their Twitter template (the space that they left blank earlier) and create a tweet that summarizes all of their previous tweets. All of these activities will help students create, store and recall tons of information.

And while we know this is just another form of a graphic organizer, your students will see just the Twitter connection and dive right in.

Have fun!

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