I have just finished reading an interesting blog post about the value of graphic organizers, written by Elona Hartjes on her blog called “Teachers at Risk.” I used to love graphic organizers for writing. Couldn’t save or make enough of them as I upgraded the ones I had and trawled the internet and educational books for better ones. However, now that I am a more experienced teacher, I am questioning the validity of graphic organizers for writing and seem to be moving away from them…very far away.
I find that students perform well with the aid of graphic organizers and the modelling that goes with them. However, once these are removed in an assessment or testing scenario, students appear unable to perform/write without the organizer. Some of them don’t even know how to start. Paragraphs-gone. Sentence structure-gone. Introduction and Conclusions – gone. Unfortunately outside of the classroom and in the real world there are no organizers to get us going.
I am now experimenting more with just getting students to write – minus the organizer. Just you, the pen and the paper…and lots of post-it notes. I like using post-it notes for brainstorming – put one idea on a post-it note. (With some kids I spend a few sessions just learning how to brainstorm.) We then build and expand the idea on each post-it. The final step involves organizing the post- it notes into what you think would be the best order. Elona uses the word, “park” for ideas onto graphic organizers. I am going to borrow the lingo from her and get students to start “Parking their Post-its” into the correct order instead of just putting them there. Each post-it becomes its own paragraph. I have used this method successfully to get students to write articles for the school newspaper as well as their own blog posts. Post assessments reveal that it is a method that works because it is one that they revisit on their own initiative.
I would love to hear your teaching opinion. Graphic Organizers or Not? Let me know.