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Graphic Organizers, Reading Notes, and Story Maps

written by: lauraleemoss • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 8/2/2012

A graphic organizer, reading notes or a story map help students when they later review a story. Additionally, graphic organizers keep students focused as they read, provide a starting point for class discussions, and creating ideas for writing assignments.

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    Graphic organizers, story maps or reading notes are many terms that refer to the methods students use in organizing ideas for a story. Students may like consistently using the same graphic organizer after reading a story. To keep students interested, vary the way they complete a story map.

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    Individual Activities

    Some story maps or classroom situations call for students to work individually. This allows students to choose the type of graphic organizer that works best for them. Provide students with ample choices. The opportunities should contain the necessary information, just with differing presentations.

    Ask students to take notes as they read or at the end of each chapter. Use a graphic organizer for a review or quiz after a homework assignment. After students familiarize themselves with the purpose of a graphic organizer, they may design their own. When students individually work with graphic organizers, the activities will be quite engaging.

    Allow students to create organizers with individual meaning. 

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    Partner Activities

    One benefit to partnering students is that they get all the benefits of working with someone, but they fear rejection less, as they often do from large class discussions. Students typically do well choosing their own partners if teachers place clear consequences for a lack of progress. If not, number students or draw names from a hat randomly. You can also have predetermined partners according to abilities or compatibility.

    Partner activities for graphic organizers can require more details, as two students will contribute. Divide the story in half and have the partnerships build the graphic organizer by discussing each half. Assign different aspects of the story, such as conflicts or vocabulary terms, to each partner and again, allow the partners to form a graphic organizer together. Partnerships require an almost constant dialogue to complete a graphic organizer.

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    Group Activities

    Group activities with graphic organizers take preparation. Outline group expectations, such as equal participation and courtesy. Sometimes students prefer to choose their own groups, but be sure all students are involved with a group. It normally works best if the teacher assigns groups. To spice up the situation for students, have 'A' groups and 'B' groups so they do not know what group they will work with for the day.

    You can handle graphic organizers in groups several ways. One method is to assign each group member a job, such as recorder, researcher and organizer. Each person will handle certain tasks and participate in completing the graphic organizer. Another method is to time groups as they work. Have a person from each group begin filling out the graphic organizer. Time them as they work and when an appropriate amount of time passes, tell them to switch. Each group member will participate, yet the final organizer will be a group effort.