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Special education students often need support in organizing their thoughts and completing multi-stage tasks. Children with sensory processing issues, autism or dyslexia can easily become overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a short essay or even answering questions about material they have read. Graphic organizers can be effective ways to help typical and atypical learners alike. The visual presentation is a unique way to show students the material they are learning, and can appeal to those who are not auditory learners. They also make it easy for you as a teacher to assess and understand their thinking skills.
How to Choose a Graphic Organizer
Find a graphic organizer that's best suited to the lesson you'll teach. Below are typical examples of graphic organizers, along with with links to PDFs that you can print out.
"KWL" stands for "know," "want to know" and "learn." It's an easy-to-use chart that helps students brainstorm information for essay questions or reports. Use it before, during and after the lesson to allow students to measure their success. They'll be amazed by how much they've learned.
Adapt this mathematical diagram to highlight similarities between two things. For back to school, use it to talk about how two students spent their summer vacations. Or, turn it upside down and use the kinds of vacations-camping, visiting grandparents, going to the beach-to identify students who have things in common.
Double Cell Venn
Also known as a double bubble chart, this Venn diagram is adapted to describe the similarities and differences in characters in a story. It's designed to help students compare and contrast.
You may have hear concept webs called story maps. Use them to help students break down the components of a story they have read. Use an organizer to track elements such as the characters, setting, problems or solutions. This is a particularly adaptable organizer. For example, put a character in the center and use it to map the attributes of the character. A problem in the plot can be in the center, with the different ways characters try to solve the problem. Or simply label the center "beginning" and have the students list the premise of the story: where it takes place, who are the characters, when is the action of the story set.
Sample Agenda Type List
For children for whom remaining at task is an ongoing problem, don't underestimate the simple effectiveness of an agenda. Laminate a copy and have her affix it to her desk. For an extra boost to visual learners, use images to augment the words on the planner. (This one can help teachers, too!)