Most recently, the No Child Left Behind legislation has prompted research to identify the top five “instructional strategies that result in the greatest improvement of student achievement.” (Lozo, 2004, p.13) As listed in ASHA’s Division 16, March 2004 newsletter, “Perspectives on School-Based Issues”, the top five research-based strategies in order of greatest impact are as follows:
- Extend thinking skills through development of higher order thinking by comparing/contrasting information, identifying cause/effect relationships, classifying vocabulary and information, and teaching analogies/metaphors.
- Develop summary skills by analyzing, prioritizing and deleting information, retelling stories, note-taking, and linking summary activities to writing.
- Teach vocabulary in context, using units, themes, or content related concepts and provide direct instruction.
- Use graphic (visual) organizers as “advanced” organizers for previewing content, identifying previous knowledge, and providing an organizational framework for guiding student learning.
- Use non-verbal representations, such as pictures, symbols, graphic (visual) organizers, and/or mental images, to show relationships and organize information throughout the learning process.
Research states that higher order thinking skills can be developed by reinforcing students’ ability to “compare/contrast information, identify cause/effect relationships, classify, vocabulary or information, and teaching analogies/metaphors” (Lozo, 2004, p. 13). The visual organizers in this resource, as well as the other books within the Pathways for Learning series, contain visual frameworks for reinforcing these language relationships.
For children who experience challenges in the regular classroom setting, the use of visual organizers can be a successful learning strategy for the following reasons:
- VISUAL ORGANIZERS provide children with a tool to facilitate comprehension and expression.
- VISUAL ORGANIZERS reduce the complexity of ideas to increase understanding.
- VISUAL ORGANIZERS offer an additional modality to assist children in processing information and demonstrate understanding through oral and written expression.
- VISUAL ORGANIZERS limit the initial presentation of information to the most relevant and meaningful concepts, establishing a foundation that is well understood and therefore retained; a foundation more easily built upon for consolidation of new information.
- VISUAL ORGANIZERS reduce the simultaneous processing demands required when producing written work. Utilizing the organizer to retrieve content gives children greater opportunity to focus on sentence complexity, as well as the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization
The visual organizers in the Pathways for Learning series make the organizational patterns of text more visually explicit allowing children to make logical connections across information. This provides opportunities for increased recall and expression of learned material. Visually organizing information can improve learning, as well as oral and written expression, by heightening children’s awareness to the connections between concepts. With ongoing use of familiar organizers, children can begin to better recognize the predictable patterns often encountered within the language of literature, textbooks, and instructional discourse; further improving their ability to identify new connections across curriculum. Visually organizing classroom curriculum can improve overall language learning not only for the child with identified learning style differences, but for all children within the classroom setting. To assist in this process, examples have been provided to demonstrate possible application and use of the organizers. Professionals are encouraged to individualize according to student need. When students use their own examples, it makes the information being learned more meaningful, increasing comprehension and application of learned concepts. Finally, it is the goal that use of the visual organizers included in these books will assist in the development of effective learning strategies and strengthen language skills essential to communication success.