If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll probably know I’m a huge fan of graphic organisers. These visual displays of ideas, facts or concepts help to organise, clarify or even simplify complex information, ideally improving comprehension and allowing for deeper understanding. They are a great way to encourage active learning, too!
But as a secondary school EFL teacher working in a CLIL programme for several years, I’d say the way in which graphic organisers make content accessible to language learners is their most powerful characteristic. Actually, if I had to choose the one thing every CLIL school needs to focus on for it to work well, that would be the effective use of graphic organisers across all content areas. It is certainly one of the best ways in which we can guarantee that the students learn the concepts being taught despite their proficiency limitations, without the content being watered down. And if the use of graphic organisers is initiated and widely used in the English classroom, then the rest of the areas will automatically benefit from it.
With such a scaffold that is not difficult to use, and which allows students to interact actively with both oral and written texts to demonstrate comprehension, or to make connections, even to plan a presentation or a piece of writing, I’ve always missed it in the course books I’ve used. It’s funny to see the same evaluation activities all over again to check comprehension of the selected texts, and then attempts at incorporating critical thinking skills, communication or creativity on the following page, usually in rather artificial ways.
Graphic organisers can be designed for specific texts and tasks without much preparation, but there are also a series of great resources with ready-to-use organisers that can be used with any type of text. Here are some of my favourite ones:
An excellent collection of editable graphic organisers and templates:
What are the best graphic organizers for promoting critical thinking?
Google Drawings graphics organizers:
Graphic organisers for text structure: