Graphic representations use linguistic and non-linguistic material to help students process material. They are useful for all students and may be especially useful for visual learners and those who find it difficult to process information that is presented in a linear format. Extensive research into the use of graphic organisers, especially those that expose text structure, Jiang & Grabe (2007), indicates that they can be effective in leading students to analyse structure and identify patterns, which in consequence deepens reading comprehension.
Graphic organisers can be used prior to reading when they are sometimes called ‘Advance Organisers’ (Anderson and Pearson 1984) but the greatest potential for enhancing reading comprehension is realised when graphic representation is used during and after reading.
Top tips for using graphic organisers to develop reading comprehension.
- Students should draw their own organisers. Encourage them to develop their own versions once they have understood the basic structures.
- Allow the organisers to be used flexibly – students will need to add or take away boxes, to increase or decrease the number of connections, as appropriate.
- Vary the way the organisers are presented – make large versions for the classroom, use a variety of materials such as whiteboards and post-its.
- Embed the use of organisers in the learning and teaching cycle. Revisit and add to the maps at different stages in the teaching cycle.
- Use the organizers to generate high quality dialogue with students working in collaborative groups and whole class discussion.
- Demonstrate how the organisers can be used to develop summaries, structure writing, organise information that may be poorly structured.
- Don’t expect students to sit in silence and fill boxes.
Hyerle, D.N. (2009) Visual Tools for Transforming Knowledge into Information London: Sage
Hyerle, D.N (2011) Student Successes with Thinking Maps London: Sage
Jiang, X. & Grabe, W (2007) Graphic Organisers in reading instruction: research findings and issues in Reading as a Foreign Language 19, 1: 34-55
Novak, J. D. (1990). Concept maps and Vee diagrams: Two metacognitive tools for science and mathematics education. Instructional Science, 19: 29-52.
Petty, G (2009) Evidence Based Teaching a practical approach Oxford: Nelson Thornes
Zwaan R.A. (1994) Effects of genre expectations on text comprehension in Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory, Cognition 20: 920-33
Why are brainstorming webs useful?
*Brainstorming is a technique used to encourage quick and creative thinking. As a group activity it allows ideas to be pooled and knowledge is constructed socially (Mercer 1995). It is an exploratory strategy which allows students to engage with a topic, bring their own knowledge to bear and take risks with ideas by avoiding self-editing too early in the process. This allows them to express both ‘good’ ideas, which might lead to fruitful avenues of enquiry, and ‘bad’ ideas, which may be discarded later. Allowing all ideas to be exposed provides an opportunity for critical thinking and group evaluation.
With regard to reading comprehension, brainstorming is most useful as a pre-reading strategy. It can be used to activate prior knowledge, make connections with new learning and track the acquisition of new knowledge across a sequence of work.
Read more about using Brainstorming Webs to support reading comprehension.