Why You Cannot Overlook or Underestimate this Review Strategy, Plus Answers to All Your Questions About Implementing Visual Study Guides in Your Own Classroom
Ok, so the big idea is this -- Blending text and visuals together has been proven to boost the brain’s ability to convert learned information into long-term memory.
This is so important to truly understand and apply, but we tend to greatly underestimate this proven research and its impact on learning. Most teachers probably feel this intuitively, deep down. But do we REALLY do our best to blend these two teaching strategies seamlessly in each and every lesson? Not always. We fall into our normal notes-and-lecture routine, then review with practice problems or questions, and once in a while try to incorporate a visual when we can.
But this idea is so critical to student learning and memory.
If your kids tend to forget when it comes to test time, or not quite see the connections between ideas, you may need to up your graphic / linguistic blending efforts! This is the key to students’ ability to move that new information out of working memory and into long-term memory to actually retain it.
My biggest goal lately has been to set students up for success in making those mental connections. I’ve been all about the cooperation of visual and linguistic brain pathways. In an effort to help kids focus and remember their lesson content, I have developed doodle notes, dug into brain research on how kids learn, and explored new ways to help them process information in more effective ways. I’ve recently made what I feel has become one of the most useful teaching resources to work toward that goal: Graphic Organizer Review Cards. It’s essentially a HUGE deck of bite-sized doodle note templates.
The graphic organizers are designed to give students options for how to organize different types of information, get them thinking about connections, and help them study and remember. In the classroom, these cards become templates where kids can easily review and process information by creating visual study guides.
I wanted to share some inside information on how these cards work and offer some inspiration to implement them, so you can maximize all of the incredible benefits!
But First, What Are Graphic Organizers?
Graphic Organizers are tools used to visually organize information. They’re extremely powerful in the classroom. We use graphic organizers (think Venn Diagram, flow chart, web...) to help kids build a mental connection between related ideas. Different concepts fit into different organizer layouts that are visually memorable.
Why We Use Graphic Organizers
As teachers, we frequently have our students use graphic organizers, because visually representing the material improves understanding of the content, which leads to better retention.
A graphic layout is key to effective note-taking. The typical list form (or outline) note method does not trigger memory as well. In order for students to convert new info into long-term memory more effectively, they need to incorporate pictorial representations.
According to Teach Hub, “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences posits that students are better able to learn and internalize information when more than one learning modality is employed in an instructional strategy. Since graphic organizers present material through the visual and spatial modalities (and reinforce what is taught in the classroom), the use of graphic organizers helps students internalize what they are learning. They also of course incorporate text and language input.
Graphic organizers also incorporate dual-coding theory, leading to an increased understanding of the material and a stronger memory of it.
How They Help Students Make Connections
A key part of learning is seeing connections and understanding relationships between ideas. Memorizing facts separately is not nearly as effective as seeing the big picture along with the details.
It’s important for students to ask, how do the concepts interact and relate to one another? Sometimes one idea leads to another and can be represented with an arrow or flowchart. Sometimes, we have a hierarchy of information, which can fit into a pyramid shape or a funnel, depending on the content. Often, we have a web of interconnected ideas that all link back to one big concept.
Students can use visual representations of the ideas to build a mind map of the connections and relationships. By choosing an effective layout for a graphic organizer, they think critically about the type of information and how to best present it. They can create a visual study guide that reflects all the ideas they are learning and how they work together.
If you would like to read more about how graphic organizers improve the development of mental connections, read this recent blog post.
Old Graphic Organizers vs. New Doodle-friendly Graphic Organizers
I remember sitting in middle school and filling in a Venn Diagram, copying the teachers’ exact words on the board with nothing but a simple number 2 pencil. We had to just copy the points from each circle on the board into the corresponding area on our own page. This was only one of many graphic organizers that our teachers used to help us visualize the given knowledge in my school years.
The problem was not the Venn Diagram, itself; there is nothing wrong with these! The problem lies in the assignment. There is no active-learning going on, no connections being made.
So, how do you make learning more active? How do you allow students to make connections?
The answer is actually very simple! Use these Graphic Organizer Cards when reviewing a lesson or for tests and quizzes as manageable, visual study guides.
This huge deck of cards includes 100 of what I like to call “bite-sized doodle notes”. They get students really interacting with and processing the content.
If you’re unfamiliar, doodle notes take advantage of biological brain processing to increase student focus and boost retention! If you’re not already familiar with the brain benefits, visit doodlenotes.org for more information!
Tips on Using the Graphic Organizer Cards
This deck for purchase has SUCH a wide variety of layouts for any type of possible lesson content. They have 2, 3, 4, subcategory possibilities, layered/ hierarchy possibilities, flowchart style possibilities, webs, and more! (This pack can be used for ANY subject, and ANY grade level. – I just got a sneak peek at how a Kindergarten teacher used them for 5-year old students last week!)
Since this deck of cards is extremely versatile, figuring out where to begin can be a little daunting. Here are some ideas I recommend:
1. After a lesson is complete, allow your students to select a card from the deck themselves to review the content. Be sure to have plenty of copies of various cards! This allows them to mentally process the new information and get it down on paper, which will greatly improve retention.
2. Pre-select a card that you feel best fits the lesson material from yesterday and have students complete it as a bell-ringer/ warm-up. Ask students to sum of the content and organize the key ideas from the previous day’s lesson.
3. Laminate them and use in centers or stations with whiteboard markers. This will be a temporary version, but much more printer-friendly and save tons of paper.
4. Always have a giant collection of blank cards on hand, so they are ready at all times. Allow your students to choose one layout that goes with the content. This ensures they are processing the information to determine the best structure.
5. To simplify and save time, pre-select a handful of 5 cards that make sense for the lesson. Students will have SOME choice, but only out of the layouts you feel will best help them understand the relationship between the ideas in this particular lesson.
6. To keep everything organized, sort your decks by type of organizer. Label baskets by the type of layout (hierarchy, linear, compare/contrast, cause/effect, etc.) or by number of sub-topics or categories (2, 3, 4, 5 segments). This will make it more straight-forward to choose a card.
7. In the file, there are some blank cards on which you can create your own layouts before making copies! You can customize the design to your own lessons.
8. Allow students to use the blank cards at the end to design their own custom layouts.
9. Have students color in each border in coordinating colors to show each different chapter or unit of study. Use a different color for each unit and post the color code on the board, so everyone can sort and organize their cards. Leave room to add to the color code throughout the year.
10. Allow students to create a mini-deck during a review day. They can identify the 5 major concepts from the unit. They can begin creating during class and finish at home as part of the study process.
11. Print on sticker paper, or offer glue sticks. Students can stick these right inside their notebooks!
Additionally, in the file, you will receive many pictures, samples, and ideas for inspiration and awesome storage tips!
By the end of the year, your kids will each have a deck of study guides covering the whole year's worth of content. They can use them to review and carry them on to the next school year.
If you think your class needs an introduction to graphic organizers, or just some more practice or exposure before diving into Graphic Organizer Cards, then check out this post, Organizing Information with a FREE download!
Want to take a closer look at the possibility of using this card deck to make it all happen for your class? Watch the video preview here:
Click the image below to purchase the full deck of 100 graphic cards.
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