Using Graphic Organizers in the Social Studies Classroom

By Tonka Dobreva 10.07.2014 blog
Online Resources to Teach Social Studies: Map Tools

In the Social Studies classroom teachers use many different tools to help their students make sense of the content they are studying. Whether the focus is cause and effect, sequence of events, or compare and contrast, graphic organizers can come in handy. These tools help students keep track of information they have learned and document the connections between core concepts. They are crucial for helping students tackle reading passages and organize details from a lecture or presentation. Here are a few different ways that graphic organizers can be used in the social studies classroom:

Mind Maps

Give students the freedom to create their own graphic organizers to as they read or listen to information. Before handing over a blank paper, model your own thinking as you interact with content so your students can watch you in action. They can see how to pull out important information and separate details from the main idea. Students can follow your thoughts as you make connections to your own prior knowledge and the concepts taught over the course of the school year.

Skill Builders

Graphic organizers often fall into categories based on a specific skill. Cause and effect can be taught when teaching students about many historical moments. As you work with students to think about sequence of events, teens can use a timeline to see the correlation between a specific moment and what else was taking place in the months and years leading up to it.  Students might also use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast two world leaders or the lives of people in two different geographic regions. Graphic organizers can help support teens as they learn a wide range of new information.

Study Tools

As students prepare for quizzes, tests, and finals, graphic organizers can become great study tools. Teens can use these activities to help them review information from the beginning of a unit or earlier in the school year. These organizational tools help students look at picture ideas like relationships and connections, in addition to details and facts they’ll want to recall.

Formative Assessment

Graphic organizers can be used as formative assessment tools. Teachers will be able to get a snapshot of student understanding during a lesson by observing what information students are collecting on their page. At the end of a lesson educators can make decisions about the focus of their next whole group lesson and which students need support in strategy groups based on how teens completed the graphic organizers.

Writing Support

If your students are writing an opinion piece on an event in the news or preparing for a research report on a topic connected to your current unit of study, graphic organizers can be used to help plan their writing. These tools can organize their thinking as they collect information to support an argument or help them compare and contrast two positions. Whether they are used for traditional writing assignments or more creative activities like filming a public service announcement, these planning tools will support their final product.

How are you using graphic organizers in your classroom?

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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