Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Get Organized!

Graphic organizers help readers with comprehension and retention problems by arranging the events, details and characters of a story visually. At the 2009 GED/HSED conference I got an introduction to a multitude of formats to make the abstract visible. You can choose one you think might help your learner and, if the first one doesn't work, try another. Here is one organizer from the website

It organizes a story by asking the
Who? What? When? Why? questions a reporter asks and leaves room at the bottom to draw a conclusion. Below you can see a similar organizer that takes on Chapter 11 of Huckleberry Finn,
a relatively complex story. In this case each minor event has its own question at the top of the box and below it the learner fills in the answers as he reads or rereads the story. The site linked here has 41 organizers — Venn circles, character studies, branching diagrams and others.

Another very nice website is In addition to graphic organizers you will find worksheets and word games to play. Like it has many different ways to arrange story elements visually. One of my favorites, for its simplicity and directness, is the cause-and-effect organizer. Here is a screen grab of that item:

I filled in this organizer with details from the Wikipedia entry for the topic of global warming. You and your learner might organize some of the thoughts as you see at left. You could just as easily run the organizer backwards, starting with effects and then listing their causes beneath them. Everyone's mind works differently, which is why it's such a good thing that there are so many different organizers out there. Please give it a look and see what might work for your learner's mind. You might try it out on your own first, graphically organizing a story from the newspaper before you try it with your learner. Best of luck, and have fun!


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