Step 2: Activities

Let’s put it into action!

When presenting new material to our students, we know we need to have a multi-sensory approach, drawing on the big picture and the fine detail, linking concrete and abstract ideas, and taking into account what we know about how the brain learns best.

On this page you’ll find activities, videos, and questions to help you reflect on how you could apply all this to your own teaching.

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Activity 1: Learn more about Advance Organisers

Here are a few places to go for more information on Advance Organisers. The video below is introduced by Ceri Dean. Skip to 1 min 40 for the section on Advance Organisers by Elizabeth Hubbell – she gives examples other than the graphical version.

The video below is an illustrated clip by Andy Johnson, which shows a variety of approaches to Advance Organisers. He calls them “Advanced” rather than “Advance” – it’s important to make this distinction, since they actually aren’t at all “advanced” or difficult!

There’s some great information on Advance Organisers here, with lots of excellent examples.

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Activity 2: Make an Advance Organiser

Using material from the topic you have chosen, choose a style for your Advance Organiser, then sketch it out using these two guidelines:

  • No more than 6 components.
  • No language the students do not know already.
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Activity 3: Checking the Advance Organiser for understanding

Remember, even though you know this topic quite well, your students don’t. This means you might be a poor judge of whether the Advance Organiser is appropriate. You can check this by giving it to your students and listening to their questions. Ask them if it makes sense. Do several students not know the meaning of some words?

Because it takes this checking process to make an effective Advance Organiser, you can save time by sharing them around the department. As they are so effective (and take little time to use) you might even like to make it department policy that every topic has an Advance Organiser available for it.

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Activity 4: Advance Organisers at different levels

The Advance Organisers described above are for a topic that would last a few weeks.

You could also make an Advance Organiser for the whole year, or even the whole course. Keep referring back to them: “Remember, last year we did… This year we are learning about…”.


Sally teaches in an Further Education college. She draws her Advance Organiser as a jigsaw puzzle. Initially all the pieces are coloured red. She changes the colour through amber to green as the students show their learning.

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Activity 5: Other big picture/ fine detail methods

There is another highly effective method, which works the other way around.

In this method, your students have covered a lot of new material and the task is to make notes, or to summarise the material. The students take in all the detail and draw out the big picture, while an Advance Organiser gives them the big picture first.

Image credits

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What's next?

Step 3: Challenge