I think graphic organizers are like daily planners – they’re outrageously effective when you have 1 or 2 that help you stay organized, but more than that and you’re doing exactly the opposite of what you set out to do. Too much of a good thing truly is just that: too much.
So often, I’ll hear teachers say, “Oh I have a graphic organizer for that!” or “If they would just use the graphic organizer, they’d be set!” I look at the walls of the classrooms and see 8-10 graphic organizers that kids should be referring to hanging there. I look on the shelves next to the teachers’ desks and I see books like “100 Graphic Organizers for Middle School” sitting there.
I mean…100 graphic organizers? Really? Like, after 50 can we admit that we’re missing something…and that something is NOT another graphic organizer?
Here are the top five reasons I see that graphic organizers are overrated:
- Graphic organizers can look worksheet or fill-in instead of being used to organize ideas/thoughts/responses for deeper discussion and writing
- Graphic organizers often muddy the waters of instruction for struggling comprehenders because they become “one more thing” for kids to do
- Graphic organizers are used as outcomes, rather than tools for comprehension and thinking outcomes
- Graphic organizers are time-consuming when a simple note-taking skill or outline would do
- There are just too many of them to become automatic/independent for kids!
So, I guess the real deal is that graphic organizers themselves are not overrated, but HOW we use them is!
I think we need to think really carefully about how we use ANY teaching aid. We need to be thinking of things like this when we determine whether a graphic organizer is in order during our lesson:
- Will the graphic organizer increase clarity on the topic we’re reading about?
- Will the graphic organizer enhance comprehension with this text?
- Have I used this graphic organizer before and will I use it again?
- How can I teach the use of the graphic organizer so that it doesn’t overtake the skill-building part of the lesson?
- Will I explicitly teach kids how to use this graphic organizer outside of this particular lesson so they can broadly apply it?
- Can I just use a simple note-taking technique instead of a graphic organizer?
- Does the graphic organizer fit the content that I’m teaching really well?