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Graphic Organizers

What are Kidspiration and Inspiration?
What are some different graphical organizers I could try?
How can graphical organizers be used in learning?

graphic organizerGraphic Organizers in the Classroom

Visual thinking can be expressed in many ways. Graphic organizers are one way for visual thinkers to arrange their ideas. There are unlimited ways to express these visual ideas. Graphic organizers have many names including visual maps, mind mapping, and visual organizers. Although many students plan with paper and pencil, technology tools can be very helpful because they allow easy editing.
Graphic organizers can be used in all phases of learning from brainstorming ideas to presenting findings. They can be used individually or in large groups. For example, some teachers like to create a class concept map as a large group to review at the end of a unit or develop a character map while reading a book aloud to the class. These tools are particularly useful in activities that require critical thinking skills.

Read Inspired Investigations by Jamie McKenzie in (From Now On, 12(5), January 2003).

eyeRead Methods for Measuring the Influence of Concept Mapping on Student Information Literacy by Carol A. Gordon. SLMR, 5, 2002.

Advantages of Graphic Organizers

Why use graphic organizers in student projects? Shouldn't students be writing paragraphs and reports? There are a number of answers to these questions. First, these organizers are a way to encourage students to think about information in new ways. With writing, it's easy for students to copy from one place to another. With graphic organizers, you remove the words and focus on the connections. Second, they are a great tool for activities that ask students to review concepts and demonstrate their understanding. They can easily make changes and take different perspectives. In other words, it helps students clarity their thinking. Third, a huge amount of information can be shared on a single picture to provide the "big view" of a topic. Fourth, it's easy to edit, revise, and quickly add to a visual map. Fifth, graphic organizers can be used as a nice planning tool from information identification to product development. Finally, they are great for visual thinkers or those that need to practice their visual thinking. Read about using Concept Mapping before Searching.
Explore the following links for lots of classroom examples.

Exploring the Possibilities

Examine the following ways to organize your ideas about your topic or problem using graphic organizers. Some of the websites provide templates, while others discuss the process of creating graphic organizers.

Creating Graphic Organizers with Technology

There are many technology tools that can be used for creating graphical organizers. Consider which ones might be used in various projects that you have created.
Inspiration Software. This software is made for organizing ideas. You can create many of the charts above using the "visual thinking and learning software" Inspiration or Kidspiration. The Inspiration website contains lots of ideas for using the software and creating classroom applications. Kidspiration is designed specifically for primary grades, but can be used with all students. In addition to using words and clipart, users can also insert their own photographs and other visuals. You can download a trial version from the website.

Online Collaborative Tools. An increasing number of online tools are available for young people to build collaborative graphic organizers. For example Thinkature and Gliffy are two options.
Online, Shareware Organizers. There are many visual planning tools that you can download for free. They even have tools for handheld devices! Check out the PiCoMap software for the Palm OS. Cmap is an open source concept mapping program.
Online Graphic Organizer Generators. You can even use online graphic generators for creating graphic organizers. Go to the Teach-nology: Graphic Organizer Generator page. You can create and print very simple graphic organizers such as concept web, KWL, SQ3R, timeline, or Venn diagram.
Paint and Draw Software. Use paint and draw software to create concept maps and webs. Choose paint software (Photoshop, Appleworks Paint, HyperStudio, KidPix) when you want to incorporate your own illustrations and use free painting options. Choose draw software (Corel Draw, Illustrator, Appleworks Draw) when you want to create and connect lines and shapes, then move objects around.
Word Processor. Use the word processor for brainstorming lists and creating charts and tables.
Spreadsheet. Use a spreadsheet to create a table of your ideas. Remember, you can easily add clipart or photographs to most spreadsheet programs such as Appleworks, Works, and Excel.
Digital Camera. You don't have to create your graph with technology to incorporate technology into the project. Consider using objects like paper plates, yarn, markers, or magazine clippings. Then, use the digital camera or a scanner to take a picture to post on the web or place in a multimedia project. Check out these examples: deep destination, story map, insects, pirate map, and space.

Teaching about Graphic Organizers

Try the Graphic Organizer Generator
Using a sample topic, try at least three different graphic organizers. Compare and contrast the way information is organized and presented. What kind of thinking is required for each activity? Use the Teacher Tap: Critical Thinking page for ideas. Consider which organizers would work best for different types of topics or problems.
Try the Teach-nology: Graphic Organizer Generator website. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using this resource rather than the Inspiration or Kidspiration software.
Try Thinkature and Gliffy.

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