Exploring Digital Graphic Organizers for ELLs
This week I am exploring the student ISTE standard 4: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making for my course in the MEd in Digital Education Leadership program. Each week, the class focuses on an ISTE standard, develops a question to explore resources to answer the question, integrates possible solutions by using feedback from peers, and then writes a resolution of the findings on a blog post. To begin my research, I turned to the third grade CCSS for the ELA and took a closer look at how I could explore this area for my students.
Common Core State Standards:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2.A Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
I noticed my students have a difficult time reading and comprehending informational text because of the challenging vocabulary words. ELL students usually depend on visuals when learning new information. Authors, Echevarria, Vogt, & Short of the SIOP® Model, emphasize the importance of providing English language learners with a variety of techniques to make content clear and comprehensible (2013). One effective way is to use graphic organizers. “They [graphic organizers] are most effective when they match the task and lead to attaining the lesson’s objectives.” (p.102-103). This led me to ask the question,
How can third grade ELL students use digital graphic organizers to help them better comprehend informational text?
My goals for students are to use digital graphic organizers as a tool to organize their thinking when they are reading informational text and also to utilize organizers when gathering information and making decisions about research projects.
My goals as a teacher are to explore other digital graphic organizers other than the three I normally use. Also I want to refine the way that I teach the use of graphic organizers- before, during, and after instruction to enhance critical thinking, and problem solving skills.
Since my goal is to have students use a variety of digital graphic organizers to gain better understanding of how to interpret and read informational text, I decided to use organizers throughout this post.
The graphic organizer above was selected from the Ditch that Textbook: 15 free graphic organizers.
A graphic organizer is a “visual and graphic display that depicts the relationships between facts, terms, and or ideas within a learning task” (Hall & Strangman, 2002). As I delved into the world of graphic organizers, it became clear to me that there has been significant studies about students in the following areas, brain injury, learning disabilities, and language learners and the benefits of using graphic organizers as an intervention (Ylvisaker and Feeney, 2006). All the research was interesting, but my focus will be on exploring graphic organizers with ELLs.
Usually, there are three graphic organizers that I use with ELL students to explore narrative and informational text: webs, KWL charts, and sequencing of events. As I began to research the many types of graphic organizers, it became clear that finding the right graphic organizer and the implementation are key factors.
- It depends on the task and learning objective as to what type of organizer to use and how it will enhance the students’ learning. McKenzie (2015) Teachers need to discuss ways for students to use graphic organizers before, during, and after instruction, but also provide direct instruction on the purpose of the organizer.
- Next teachers need to model how to use the organizer when students are reading or gathering information and then provide students with the opportunity to actively and independently construct the organizer.
- Last it is important to “discuss and correct them [graphic organizers]. Make sure to verbalize relationships between the concepts represented within the organizer” ( Smith, 2007).
Exploring Digital Graphic Organizer Tools
The “thinking guides” have categories for students to choose from depending on their tasks, such as tools for analyzing, solving problems, and exploring. This would provide students the opportunity to select the appropriate organizer for their task.
The Kidspiration software program seems to be easy for students to navigate and to independently use the organizers with some teacher directions. The program has a voice activation feature, where students can hear what they wrote, which meets the needs of those ELL students who have an IEP. This program could transform students’ webs into an outline which could then be used for writing research reports. The only concern I have is that when students are using Chromebooks, they will not be able to use Kidspiration. Considering this fact, I needed some other suggestions for the usages of digital graphic organizers and so I turned to my cohort.
During the integration phase, cohorts and professors provided me with several helpful suggestions for my question. One recommendation was to examine text structures with informational text and to use graphic organizers to aid with the learning. Text structures are found in informational text and organized by structures such as: description, sequence/timeline, compare and contrast, causes and effects, problem/solution. One resource (paper copy) that I found on the Scholastic site, was a chart of text structures for students to use while reading informational text. The chart lists signal words to help students identify text structures. At first, students could use this chart to become familiar with the different organizers. Then once they have a clear understanding of the purpose and goals, students would move towards using digital organizers. There are pre-made digital organizers such as on the site, Ditch That Textbook, for students to access online which might be the place to start with third graders. Another suggestion was to have students create their own digital graphic organizer using Google Drawings.
I first explored Google Drawings by viewing a tutorial on how to use this digital tool. I was able to create the digital graphic organizer seen below:
The Google Drawings tool is a creative tool for students to use critical thinking skills when designing their own graphic organizers. Before expecting a finished product from students, there needs to be several exploration sessions. Once students have mastered the tools, they could design their own graphic organizer that meets their needs. This would be a great tool for collaboration and creativity. After reading an informational text, students could create a digital organizer with a partner. Partners would then share their organizers with the class to explain their thinking and discuss how they organized their information. The last step would be the teacher and students conferencing about the organizers to clarify and reflect on their learning.
When I started exploring ISTE 4 at the beginning of the week, my focus was on learning about several more organizers to guide students in their comprehension of informational texts. By the end of the week, I realized that I have only discovered the tip of the iceberg, when teaching students how to effectively use digital graphic organizers. This week’s assignment provided a stepping stone towards the possibility of using digital graphic organizers with my third graders. Students need a variety of opportunities to comprehend new vocabulary words and information; by teachers modeling the application of organizers, discussing the appropriate types, and utilizing the organizers before, during, and after readings. Once students become familiar with the different types of graphic organizers, the goal is for students to select the tool based on the appropriateness of the task. By using graphic organizers to help with their learning, my students should be able to apply critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills.
Bate, A.W. (n.d.). Methods of teaching. In Teaching in a digital age (4). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-4-methods-of-teaching/
Echevarria, J.,Vogt, M.E., & Short, D.(2013). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP® Model. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Hall,T.,&Strangman,N.(2002).Graphic organizers.Retrieved February 20, 2015 from: http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/graphic_organizers#.VOdi6PnF9b4
Glassvisage. (2011). Using graphic organizers to facilitate learning. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from: http://glassvisage.hubpages.com/hub/Using-graphic-organizers-to-facilitate-learning
McKenzie, J., (2015). Graphical Organizers as Thinking Technology. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from: http://digitalliteracy.us/organizing-strategies/