I love using graphic organizers in the classroom to teach and evaluate students understanding of a topic or concept. I’ve written about them here and here before. Even my most reluctant and/or struggling students find graphic organizers engaging. I’ve noticed that my students who display ADHD type symptoms seem to be able to focus better when creating graphic organizers.

A few days ago I came across a site www.classtools.net that has wonderful graphic organizers. I’ve written about other free sites here, too. The graphic organizers are interactive, a feature I really appreciate and free.  what could be better.  I’ve posted a few examples to give you an idea are engaging they are. I intend to use them with my students.

Use Animoto, a Web 2.0 application, to add an edge to your presentations that your students or any other audience will find engaging.

I’ve been wanting to create a multi media presentation for my Learning Strategies Class that would review all the different types of graphic organizers that I encourage the students to use to help them organize their thoughts when doing various assignments.

Surprisingly, sometimes when I talk about graphic organizers my students’ eyes glaze over. :) I wanted to catch their attention, and given that my Power Point presentations don’t really fare well when compared to the Much Music videos the kids love to watch, I was delighted to find Animoto, a Web 2.0 application. Animoto lets me create a a multi media presentation on any topic that has “the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer”.

What do my students think about Animoto? They think it’s really cool and were excited about it when I showed it to them the other day. They’re having lots of fun creating their own Animoto videos because they know the final product will look great.

Check out what I’ve done. I’m still exploring Animoto’s potential , but I already love it. It’s as easy as 1,2,3 to use. I’m sure you’ll find lots of ways to use it in and out of the classroom.

This Monday I’m giving a workshop at school to show my colleagues how easy it is to use. When I featured Animoto as “The Website of the Week”, it created quite a buzz. There’s lots of interest about it.

Oh, by the way the graphic organizers featured in my video can be found by clicking this link A list of Graphic Organizers I’ve found useful

computer-magic.jpgI’m always amazed by the power of graphic organizers and puzzles to motivate students to stay on task, and of course a student who is on task is a student who is not a discipline problem. I’ve come to think of graphic organizers and puzzles as a classroom management tools, because when I use them students manage to behave better and do their work without finding creative ways to amuse themselves like bullying other students or throwing things around the room.

I keep an emergency file of puzzles and activities that use graphic organizers handy so that when things are not going “well” , I can instantly whip out my emergency file and save the day- and my sanity. I have an emergency file for my learning strategies classes, literacy classes and math classes. I’ve been collecting puzzles and graphic organizers over the years and have found the internet to be a valuable resource. Sites like edHelper and Puzzle Choice are some of the sites I like to use. EdHelper has material suitable for kids from k-12 . I use it for math and language. This week, my grade nine students couldn’t get enough of the Sudoku puzzles from edHelper. I also like the Number Cruncher puzzle from Puzzle Choice. I ‘ve used the Number Cruncher puzzles with my grade 9-10 applied math classes. You can definitely use it for the earlier grades as well. The math isn’t the challenging part of the puzzle ; following the instructions is. I can generate a lot of good excitement in class using the Number Cruncher puzzles.

One of the most effective ways I found to settle my rambunctious classes is to greet them at the door with a puzzle or handout. When they come to my classroom door, I greet them with a warm hello and give them the puzzle or handout. This week it was Sud0ku puzzles for the math class. Some students even asked if they could have some puzzles for home work! They sit down and start on the puzzle or handout so they’re working and not misbehaving. O f course not everyone is keen, but what happens is interesting. The good students almost always start to work on the puzzle right away. The students who sometimes misbehave depending on the situation will also almost always start to work on the puzzle . That leaves the disruptive kids. Amazingly they will also settle down and do the puzzle. I’m not sure if it’s peer pressure that gets them to do the puzzle, or they do it because they don’t have an audience because everyone is paying attention to the puzzle. At any rate, that strategy has really helped me with classroom management. Of course it doesn’t always work perfectly, but it works often enough to make it a valuable tool. I have shared that strategy with other teachers, and they have found it effective too.

Graphic organizers are also an effective classroom management tool, aside from being an excellent teaching tool. My rambunctious students love doing graphic organizers so ,of course, I use them a lot. The graphic organizers really engage the kids. I use them in all my classes from grade nine through to grade twelve. Teachers at my school who teach the gifted program also use them. The enhanced grade eleven biology class created a quilt (a graphic organizer) as a final evaluation for one of the units in the course. It was fantastic. The senior kids loved creating the quilt instead of doing a regular unit test. The teacher was able to evaluate the kids in all the categories she had to -thinking, application, communication and knowledge. It was a win-win situation.

There are so many wonderful graphic organizers out there. I have favourites that I use all the time. I’ve discussed these in previous posts. If you just click here you’ll see that I have listed them along with possible applications. I’ve shared these with other teacher at work and they also find them useful as well.

Of course nothing works all of the time. I usually mix things up a bit because kids get bored and then the behaviour deteriorates. Sometimes nothing works, and it’s just one of those days. I really believe that it’s not all my responsibility to keep kids from getting bored. Kids have to do their part , too. I’m not a entertainer. I’m a teacher. But, I really think that it is in my best interest to try to keep my students engaged in activities I chose or else they’ll be engaged in ones I wouldn’t choose.

I invite you to try some of the strategies with puzzles and graphic organizers that I’ve talked about, and see if they work for you. Check out my links and surf web. There’s lot of wonderful resources out there. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Here’s an example of the frayer model graphic organizer.

I like to use it because it really tells me whether a student really understands a definition or concept.

Students can use frayer model to demonstrate their understandings of a concept, issue or word.

Update- Sept. 30/08

Sorry, I didn’t realize the link was broken.  If that happens again, please leave a comment and tell me.  Thanks.

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