During reading strategies Part II
Graphic organizers are a great way to engage a student during a reading activity, and increase comprehension. Essentially graphic organizers are representations of details and big ideas in such a way that the relationships between them are shown. The risk of reading without an engaging "during" strategy is the student may grasp the big picture but be unable to relate the details that ultimately determined the main idea. Should some of those details fall by the way-side in the recollection process, it would be feasible for a student to gather a completely contrary picture of the main idea of a piece of literature. That being said, there are many types of graphic organizers that can be used. Many of them are good for a variety of uses.
There are essentially two different text structures in any piece of literature. The first is the external text structure. This refers to things that are included with the text to serve as guides or navigation tools, or simply supplements. Table of contents, index, photographs, end-notes, foot-notes, and bibliographies are all examples of external text structures. Internally, text has four basic structures:
1.Description- This style is a classification of information using characteristics, definitions or examples. a. suitable graphic organizer: web, or mind map
2.Compare/Contrast: Great for showing similarities and differences. Oftentimes one or the other may be readily seen, but the converse requires more critical thinking and encourages analysis.
a. Venn diagrams, T-charts and tables are good for representing a compare/contrast text structure.
3. Sequence: Sequences are good for representing text in relation to time. Not to be confused with the next structure, cause and effect.
a. Timelines, lists and cycles are good for representing sequences.
4. Cause and Effect: This structure is good for showing how one event leads to another. This structure lends itself to representing the influence of one event upon another. Ultimately, seeing things as inter-connected heightens comprehension of all text.
a. The Cause/Effect text structure can look very similar to a sequence. The difference is that there is explicit causality in a cause/effect graphic organizer. A sub category of cause/effect is problem/solution.
Application to History
Each of these structures have an important role to play in history. Oftentimes history is portrayed in the simplest format, description. The most important tools are cause/effect and compare and contrast. Understanding the similarities between events and the multiple causality of our rich history is the most direct path to comprehension.
Example of Graphic Organizer in History Curriculum
Given a piece of text, perhaps on the effects of developments in technology on agriculture in Virginia, a student could interpret that information using a Venn Diagram to compare pre-industrial and post-industrial Virginia. Certainly there would be many similarities and differences.
Parallel timelines which showed the average population, crop production and developments in technology could be used to show sequences. Then, from those timelines, cause and effect analysis could be used to show the relationships between the three.
These methods would cause the students to analyze one piece of literature from multiple perspectives. The comprehension of the text would increase exponentially with every examination of the text. Full mastery would be the desired result, naturally. The added bonus of graphic organizers in history is that it gives the teacher a picture into the logic process of the student. In this way a teacher can see, quite directly, where a student may or may not be understanding the material. Much in the same way that a mathematics teacher can pinpoint the line of reasoning that led to an incorrect answer, a history teacher can identify which piece of information led to a false conclusion due to omission or misinterpretation of facts.