Students using graphical methods

We covered some aspects of Graphical Methods in the ‘Presentation’ section.  This method applies both to using graphical methods when presenting new information to your students, but also to them using graphical methods when they are working on the challenging task you have set them.

This does not mean that you have to get your students to draw pictures (though that can be good for those with drawing skills), becuase the value of graphics extends to the use of words, so long as the words are in the form called ‘Graphical Organisers’ (GOs).

Types of Graphical Organiser

A ‘Graphical Organiser’ is words in boxes joined together by lines, and there seem to be three different types, those which compare, those which define, and those which sequence.

The evidence is that using Graphical Organisers has a large, positive effect on learning, but it’s not quick and easy. It’s the sort of thing where you’d have to practise both as a teacher, and with your students. You won’t see the benefits until their skills develop, but, the evidence suggests, this will be time well spent.

Alternative method 1

  1. Present new material in your usual way
  2. Students create a suitable organiser to summarise the topic, answer a question etc. (Either they choose or you stipulate which type)
  3. Students circulate, look at other organisers for good ideas
  4. Students improve their work
  5. Peer or Self-assessment against criteria you provide

Alternative method 2

Start by brainstorming information onto the board.  At this point you just have a spider diagram or random list.  Now get the students to organise the information using a G.O. Putting it into categories forces the students to think through the material.

Go beyond your habits.

You may notice that you already use just one or two types of Go in your lessons, perhaps mind-maps and tables.  mind-map style G.Os, and choose another type to work with.

Why do GOs work?

One probable reason they are effective is that they work in the way that the brain stores memories: linking things together in categories. The brain isn’t like a computer where, for example, all the photographs you have taken are stored separately,  everything is categorised with similar memories joined together.

Another reason is that it is engageing the right side of the visual/spatial area of the brain which sees the ‘big picture’ of the subject.  This means GOs are extra helpful to those who are weak in the left ‘detail’ part – those who struggle with reading text.

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