21:Graphic Organizers

Well-known lesson structures call for teachers to plan what must be done in advance of a lesson that calls for reading (pre-reading, before reading), what must be done to guide students during reading of challenging texts, and what must be done after the reading in order to focus, remediate, or extend students’ understanding of a text passage (e. g., Betts, 1946; Dechant, 1991; Graves & Graves, 1995; Vacca & Vacca, 2005).  Graphic organizers fit into the pre-reading, during reading, after reading model quite well, but as we have asserted in other parts of this book, we encourage teachers to use these tools with precision. A teacher who knows why a specific graphic organizer is appropriate and where it best works in the lesson plan as it relates to the reading students encounter is far more effective in encouraging the cognitive practices students need.  The KWL (Ogle, 1986) example in section is a good example of a graphic organizer, thoughtfully deployed.  The organizer helps students think about what they know in advance of reading (or other instructional input) and then predict what they may learn as a result.  Just as important, the KWL structure calls for students and teacher to return to the graphic organizer to make further sense of the material that was completed after reading is done.

However, other graphic organizers may be similarly useful.  The well-known Venn diagram is an example.  Students might complete a Venn diagram using background and prior knowledge in advance of reading that requires students to compare two different concepts, characters, or sets of information. A comparison matrix may point students in a direction that provides more depth to their thinking. Used in this manner, a graphic organizer may serve to help students make good predictions before or during reading.  Similarly, the graphic organizer might assist students to clarify predictions they made earlier during reading or after they have finished a selection from the text.

Using the organization students have imposed on their existing knowledge, students might then read a text passage with the intention of returning to the Venn diagram to reconstruct their knowledge given the new information they have obtained from their reading.  As students become proficient at using graphics to impose an organizational pattern on what they learn, teachers should gradually release responsibility for choosing and perhaps creating a suitable graphic organizer to assist in the learning process.  Students should know not just that they are required by their teachers to complete a graphic organizer; they should have an explicit understanding of why they use the organizer and why a particular organizer is selected.

Step by Step

  1. Choose a suitable graphic organizer that represents the organization pattern of the text students will read. Determine if it will work most efficiently at the pre-reading, during reading, or after reading phases of a lesson that includes reading material.  To encourage prediction, students might be asked to activate existing knowledge (sections 2.5 and 2.6) before they begin reading and use the graphic to give order to the material.  A blank or partially completed graphic supplied by the teacher may be required to appropriately scaffold the students’ experiences.  Students might also add to a graphic during reading if the length and complexity of the text suggests this approach.
  2. Assist students to determine why you have chosen a specific graphic organizer before or during reading. Doing so after reading may also be appropriate.  In this way, students learn to detect the organizational patterns of the text (see section 2.3) through scaffolding questions.
  3. As students become increasingly proficient with the use of the graphic organizers, permit them to choose the graphic organizer that seems most appropriate after previewing the material and examining headings, charts, and diagrams (see section 2.2). In this way, students learn to predict with increasing accuracy what they will learn and adjust their thinking when new concepts are encountered more frequently.

Applications and Examples

Sometimes what students believe to be so and what actually is so can create conflict in the mind that must be resolved if learning is to occur.  Students might believe that waves indicate that water is in motion, moving toward shore then away from shore.  A direct observation seems to confirm this idea.  But this rather evident conclusion is not correct.  The movement of the water is up and down, roughly perpendicular to the floor of the ocean floor underneath.  Scientists call this a transverse wave, and readers of this book might picture (visualization in section 2.12, remember) two people holding opposite ends of a rope with one person moving it rapidly up and down creating a wave in the string.  Notice that the string doesn’t move from one person to the other with the wave; instead the waves move up and down.  Waves on a beach do much the same thing.

A longitudinal wave, by contrast, moves in parallel to the medium which conducts it.  A sound wave is a good example of such a wave.  Now, suppose that you have a science text that describes these two-wave phenomenon.  In addition, you know that your students might believe, by generalization and observation, that the medium (like the water) moves along with the wave.  Before the students read the science text that describes these two types of waves, you will need to make several instructional decisions.  First, consider students’ background knowledge about waves.  What about that knowledge will need to change as a result of the learning activities including reading?  Second, how is the text organized?  Does it describe the transverse wave in one section followed by another section that describes the longitudinal wave?  If so, a graphic organizer (Figure 21.1a) might be in order that calls students’ attention to this structure before they begin reading.  Note that students can create this graphic organizer by folding a piece of blank paper into fourths saving the teacher time standing in front of the copy machine.

Figure 21.1: In his own words

Primary grade teachers often employ a technique termed the word sort.  Word sorts employ a simple graphic organizer, too.  Readers who have used a word sort to assist student learning to read or with spelling patterns recognize the graphic nature of the word sort right away.  But, you say, isn’t this book about prediction?  And, you’re right.  Word sorts are powerful tools that help students to make predictions about words.   A teacher who wants students to learn about the different correspondences between letters and sounds for the long /e/ might construct a graphic organizer like Figure 21.2.  As students work through words pronounced for them or presented on index cards, students must decide where to write the word to match the spelling pattern.  When students recognize the spelling pattern they are more able to predict unknown words they encounter in reading and to predict the spelling of words they have not encountered in print before.

22:Anticipation Guides

Children have a lot on their minds; there is so much to learn that the powerful cognitive function of making inferences can be quite helpful, and not just from reading, either.  In their early lives, children observe as much as they can from their siblings, parents, playground experiences, teachers, and a multitude of other people and events.  From these observations, children make inferences that help them explain and understand the world, develop a framework for dealing with it, and perhaps theories the give that world and their lives in it purpose and meaning. Inferences, as we’ve noted in other sections of this book, are characteristic of good thinking habits.  Here’s a secret:  sometimes our inferences and mental representations (Gardner, 2006) are incorrect or only partially correct.  Children, like the adults around them, work from such inferences and representations all the time.  What children do with those constructs, and what teachers do to facilitate the process, is the real business of education.  Teachers are in the business of changing minds.  Gardner

suggests that changes of mind may be of two types: deepening one’s mental representations and transformation of the existing representations.

Anticipation is the emotion most often associated with prediction.  The anticipation guide (Dufflemeyer, Baum, & Merkley, 1987) is a classroom structure with the potential to use prediction as a foundation for confronting the mental representations that exist as background and prior knowledge.  Further, the anticipation guide may assist the thinking reader with deepening of existing mental representations or with a transformation of those structures.  Once confronted, a thinker can purposefully construct new representations based on the new information presented.  An anticipation guide is essentially a set of statements with which a student can agree or disagree or note as likely or unlikely during prereading.  Once this existing knowledge is activated, students then read the text with the purpose of accommodating new information that differs from the existing knowledge.  Once students realize that they must construct a new mental representation, a during or after reading opportunity should be provided for students to determine the compatibility of their pre-existing knowledge with that presented in the text.

Effective anticipation guides require some preparation and knowledge of students’ existing knowledge.  The most daunting task for the teacher is in preparation of the statements to which students will respond.  Statements used on anticipation guides may be flawed in three important ways (Dufflemeyer, 1994): 1). Students lack sufficient existing knowledge about the topic to form any reasoned judgment—remember we are promoting a change of mind, 2). The statement is based on ideas subordinate to major concepts—remember that new knowledge is constructed in the context of existing knowledge, and 3). The statement is common knowledge among students.  To that end, effective statements convey major ideas, activate and draw upon students’ existing knowledge, are general in nature, and challenge students’ current mental representations.

Step by Step

  1. Review the text or other instructional material to identify the major concepts represented therein.
  2. Construct a series of statements, some supported by the text and others that are not, keeping in mind the principles of statement generation discussed above. Include a place for students to check whether they agree or disagree or whether a statement is likely or unlikely to be verified by the text. In most contexts, avoiding true and false options is preferable.
  3. Present the statements to students prior to reading. The statements, an anticipation guide, may be presented on a data projector, as a handout, or printed on a chalkboard.  Some teachers tally student responses as a means of fostering discussion (Ryder & Graves, 2003); others ask students to compare responses with a partner (Fisher et al., 2007).
  4. Students read the text. As they do so, they should attempt to determine if their initial responses are supported by the material or if the materials suggests that the response should be changed.
  5. After students finish reading, ask them to respond again to the statement using the response option (agree/disagree, likely/unlikely); they should also be asked to explain why their initial responses were or were not supported encouraging them to confront the compatibility of pre-existing mental representations with what is in the text. This is often done in writing as part of an extended anticipation guide (Dufflemeyer & Baum, 1992).  Teachers may choose to re-tally student responses to foster discussion among class members or ask students to compare revised responses with a partner or in a small group, again supporting the revised opinion based on the reading.  We suggest that students may benefit if encouraged to find additional sources to support or push back against the text under consideration.

Applications and Examples

Mrs. Trish Schafer uses the anticipation guide to deepen students’ knowledge and challenge beliefs that might otherwise hinder learning about ancient river civilizations.  Notice that she returns to the anticipation guide after reading and provides students with an opportunity to use the text to support their new understanding.

Figure 22.1 In her own words, Tricia Sents Schafer, Camden High School, Camden, New York

The textbook is broken into four sections; each section teaches students about a different ancient empire. Throughout our study of early civilizations we focus on how geography influenced the development of each unique civilization, and how later empires borrowed ideas from earlier empires. Thus far, my ninth-grade class has studied the Sumerian Civilization of Mesopotamia. As we begin our study of ancient Egypt, I will consistently refer back to ancient Sumer, so students can compare and contrast the technology, belief systems, inventions, government, and geography of these two civilizations. In order to prepare my students to read about the effects the Nile River had on Egyptian civilization, I created an anticipation guide. The guide includes five statements based on the reading assignment. My ninth-grade students will read each statement, and agree or disagree with each statement. In addition, students will be asked to justify their responses with a simple explanation as to whether they agreed or disagreed (Figure 22.2).

After completing the anticipation guide students will share their answers to the questions in their small groups and discuss why they agreed or disagreed with the statements. Based on our previous study of ancient Sumer students might recall that floods are not always destructive. In fact, yearly flooding allowed the Sumerians to farm in the middle of the desert. The floods would wash rich deposits of black silt onto the river banks, and the Sumerians used this soil to fertilize their fields. Thus, it follows students may generalize that a certain amount of flooding is necessary in order to be able to farm in the desert. In Sumer, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were unpredictable; therefore, dikes were built to prevent villages from being flooded. Students may believe this is always true of floods. However, as students read the paragraphs I will assign, they will discover that in ancient Egypt the flooding of the Nile was quite predictable and allowed them to establish a yearly cycle of flood, plant, harvest.

Students will be asked to read a section of the text about ancient Egypt. After reading the section students will revisit their anticipation guide and change any of their answers that may have been wrong. Students will return to their small groups for discussion and to support their changed responses.

Figure 2.2   Weather Conditions

23:Metacognitive Double-Entry Journals

Journals and note-taking strategies help students organize their thoughts, provide a reference for later study, and afford an opportunity to think about a concept on the reader’s (or thinker’s) own terms.  However, teachers notice that the journals students write sometimes lack substance or higher levels of cognitive activity.  In section 2.3 we explored a double-entry journal that directs students’ attention toward the features of the text.  Here, you’ll learn about a metacognitive double-entry journal which provides a form of support that helps students realize that different types of cognitive activity occur during reading (Burns, 2004).  As students write their double-entry journals, they follow a traditional procedure of placing their direct observations from the story in one column (note-taking) and their comments on the opposite side (note-making) (See Figure 23.1).

However, after extensive modeling, students also learn to code their journals in the left-hand margin with a number which corresponds to one of six strategies (see Table 23.1).  You will see that strategy number four asks students to make focal predictions about word meanings, strategy two asks students to make global predictions about events in the text and how they relate to each other, strategy five asks students to make inferences, and strategy three asks students to think about questions that can lead to predictions and clarifications as they read.

[Insert Table 23.1 about here]

Step by Step

  1. Select an appropriate text passage and use a think-aloud protocol to model for students how each strategy is identified as you read, how to take notes in the left-hand column, and how to make notes in the right-hand column. Then model how to code the strategy in the margin.  Each note-taking entry in the double-entry journal also includes the page number and sentence from the text that prompted the student to write the entry.
  2. Have students try this on their own. Small group work may make this technique manageable for students who struggle with the concept of identifying the strategy; e. g., guessing a word meaning, predicting what happens next, etc.

Applications and examples

When Dr. Burns first implemented the metacognitive double-entry journal with her fourth-grade students, she found that they often struggled with the process of slowing down the reading process to record their thoughts in the journal.  Student also recorded shorter sentences instead of working with the ideas in longer sentences because they did not want to write down the longer sentences.  As a result, she modified her strategy to allow students to simply record the page number where the passage that prompted the metacognitive realization appeared.  In order to make the tool comprehensible for her students, she also changed the term “note-taking” to “What the story says” and the term “note-making” to “What I think.”

[Insert Figures 23.1a & b about here]

Tiffany, a third-grade student in Dr. Burns’ class, created this double-entry metacognitive journal for Balto, The Dog Who Saved Nome

(Davidson, 1996) (Figure 23.1a).

25:Hot Seat

The Hot Seat is a cooperative learning strategy that fosters learning from predictions.  In hot seat, students adopt the persona of a character in literature or history then answer questions from the character’s perspective.

Step by Step: Hot Seat

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students.
  2. Each student selects or is assigned a character whose persona he or she will adopt.
  3. Group members create questions based on their understanding of the story or text to be asked of the other characters in the group.
  4. Then, in turn, each character responds to question posed by other members of the group. A two minute time limit is suggested.
  5. As a clarification strategy, students might write down their predictions and points of confusion and use these as a basis for the questions they have for other members of the group. By focusing their questions toward specific characters represented by group members, students also increasingly bring to bear what they know about the characters to help them reduce their uncertainty about the content.
  6. While this strategy is very useful in the study of fiction, it is adaptable to other content areas, as well. During or after reading an appropriate text about the U. S. Civil War battle at Antietam, students might engage in a hot seat activity to examine the perspectives of President Lincoln, President Davis of the Confederate South, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Union General George McClellan.  In science, students could assume roles of a stem cell researcher, a politician in favor of such research, a politician who opposes the research, and a person who might benefit from stem cell research.

Sitting in the Hot Seat requires a student to experience a work of literature or historical perspective from a different point of view, thus assisting students to clarify or refine what they know through social interaction. To facilitate implementation of this strategy, consider these modifications:

  1. Allow students to work in groups to brainstorm possible questions. Their questions might focus on recalling the story or on speculating about a character’s emotions or motivation to act as they do.
    2. Put students into “expert” character groups so they can share their ideas about characters.
    3. Use puppets, character masks, and living murals to liven up the activity.

Applications and Examples

Ms. Marla Green uses Hot Seat to help her students understand the characters in the novel Bud, Not Buddy (Curtis, 2002). In her own words:

The characters that are the focus for this hot seat are:  Bud, Toddy Amos and Mrs. Amos.  Students will take on the roles of each character in a small group then a whole class discussion follows. We will have several completely different views.  Through Hot Seat, students will be able to think about predictions they made about Mrs. Amos’ statement: “Lord knows I have been stung by my own people before.  But take a good look at me because I am one person who is totally fed up with you and your ilk.  I do not have time to put up with the foolishness of those members of our race who do not want to be uplifted.” (Curtis, 2002, pp.14-15) or why Todd beats the heck out of Bud.

Curtis, C. P. (2002) Bud, Not Buddy. New York, NY: Aladdin.

Marla Green, Kelso School District, Kelso, Washington.


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