Tag Archives: instructional materials

Using Graphic Organizers in History: 5 W’s

I never had an interest in history as a student and never had much experience teaching it until I did OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) tutoring. I think that year was the year I learned everything I always should have learned about history but didn’t.

It was easy for me to sympathize with my students who hated history and failed the 10th grade state test one (or more) times. I will admit that I have said more than once, “History is so in the past. Who needs it?” But, it was my job and these students needed me to teach it so they could graduate. I figured out ways to do so and now, after 3 years of 8th Grade Inclusion History, I feel like I finally almost enjoy learning about history. (I love teaching anything!)

This did not happen until I started viewing history as a story of time. Who doesn’t love a good story? Every event in history can be told as a story with characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.

I spend a lot of time making graphic organizers, study guides, and modified assessments for our history class. I get feedback from a reading specialist who uses my materials with her small group reading and writing class. Students complete the study guides, verbally talk about the events in the chapter, and then write about the events in paragraph form as well. (See how this works for a reading teacher? Students are skimming, scanning, comprehending, and synthesizing throughout this process.) It is our thinking that if they can visualize the information in the graphic organizer, talk about it, and then put it into written words, they will surely remember at least some of it.

I plan on regularly posting samples of the graphic organizers, strategies, and study materials I use with my 8th graders. Hopefully they will give you ideas to use in your classroom (in any content area). Below is my first example:

Students read the section and locate the details to tell the story.

*Here is a PDF file of an original 5W’s +1 (a blank box for additional info.) for you to download: 5ws+1

Speaking of Patience…

I admitted in my previous post that sometimes I struggle to be patient…especially when I get a good idea for my classroom. I tend to leap right into things and can find myself (or my students) frustrated.

After spending (and in hindsight, sometimes wasting) a lot of time, here are some tips for making your own instructional materials:

Creating useful, quality learning tools takes time. When you get a good idea, work on the rough draft, let it sit, and come back to it. There is always room for improvement.

Realize there is a learning curve. Unfortunately, I only teach one section of Language Arts. My students are always the guinea pigs. If I had multiple sections, I am sure I would modify and tweak my instruction, materials, and delivery.

Don’t invest too much too early. My biggest mistake is thinking of an idea and simply running wild with it (i.e. creating multiple pages or an entire unit before I present even one lesson). Don’t create more work for yourself by working too far ahead. The layout or organization of handouts may need to be changed. Directions may be unclear. Or, worst case scenario, the idea totally doesn’t work like you thought it would and it ends up in the recycling bin.

Seek professional help. As hard as it is to be critiqued by your colleagues, share your work with a trusted and experienced co-worker. I run things by a reading specialist who works with my students. She has a very similar philosophy and understands what my goals and expectations are

Take on a student perspective. If you are making a handout, worksheet, graphic organizer, or study guide imagine how you would react if you were the student. How does it look on paper? Do the directions make sense? What is confusing? What isn’t clear? Perhaps most importantly, make sure as a student you can answer these questions:

“Why am I doing this?”

and

What am I supposed to be learning?”

Image

A Chinese Proverb that sums up what we do as teachers.

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