Definition Essay Organizer

Introduction to Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers guide learners’ thinking as they fill in and build upon a visual map or diagram. Graphic organizers are some of the most effective visual learning strategies for students and are applied across the curriculum to enhance learning and understanding of subject matter content. In a variety of formats dependent upon the task, graphic organizers facilitate students’ learning by helping them identify areas of focus within a broad topic, such as a novel or article. Because they help the learner make connections and structure thinking, students often turn to graphic organizers for writing projects.

In addition to helping students organize their thinking and writing process, graphic organizers can act as instructional tools. Teachers can use graphic organizers to illustrate a student’s knowledge about a topic or section of text showing areas for improvement. For more graphic organizer examples including, webs, concept maps and mind maps click here

                 Graphic Organizer Example

 

Definition of a Graphic Organizer

A graphic organizer is a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts or ideas. A graphic organizer guides the learner’s thinking as they fill in and build upon a visual map or diagram. They are also informally used as a term to describe all visual learning strategies such as concept mapping, webbing, mind mapping, and more.

 

Types of Graphic Organizers

Webs, concept maps, mind maps and plots such as stack plots and Venn diagrams are some of the types of graphic organizers used in visual learning to enhance thinking skills and improve academic performance on written papers, tests and homework assignments.

 

Concept Maps

Concept maps graphically illustrate relationships between two or more concepts and are linked by words that describe their relationship.

             Concept Map Example

 

Webs
Brainstorming webs show how different categories of information relate to one another.


                               Web Example

 

Mind Maps
Mind Maps are visual representations of hierarchical information that include a central idea or image surrounded by connected branches of associated topics or ideas.

                          Mind Map Example

 

For more graphic organizer examples including webs, concept maps and mind maps click here

 

How to use graphic organizers

Graphic organizers are tools that can be used to visualize and organize information. Because graphic organizers are often used as prompts for students to fill in the blanks, graphic organizers provide many benefits to students who use them including:

  • Helping students structure writing project
  • Encouraging students to make decisions
  • Making it easy for students to classify ideas and communicate
  • Allowing students to examine relationships
  • Guiding students in demonstrating their thinking process
  • Helping students increase reading comprehension
  • Making it easy to brainstorm
  • Encouraging students to organize essential concepts and ideas
  • Making it clear how to break apart a story into the main elements (intro, rising action, climax, etc.)

           Example of a Graphic Organizer for a Science Experiment

 

Teaching with Graphic Organizers

Used across the curriculum, teachers use graphic organizers to teach many things, including but not limited to:

  • Cause and effect
  • Note taking
  • Comparing and contrasting concepts
  • Organizing problems and solutions
  • Relating information to main themes and ideas
  • Organizational skills
  • Vocabulary knowledge
  • Sequencing

Using Inspiration Software’s visual thinking and learning products Inspiration®, Kidspiraton® and Webspiration Classroom™, students and teachers create graphic organizers as they brainstorm ideas, organize information, gather research, make visual associations and identify connections.

For more graphic organizer examples including webs, concept maps and mind maps click here.

Our state standards spell it out pretty clearly. My third graders need to be able to write opinion pieces on topics or texts that state an opinion within a framework of an organizational structure that provides reasons that support the opinion and provides a concluding statement. Oh, and they better use transitional words and phrases throughout. These would be the same 8-year-olds who still can't figure out it's not a good idea to put your boots on before your snow pants.  

With all this in mind, meeting those standards seemed like a huge mountain to climb when I was planning out my persuasive writing unit a few weeks ago. I have students who still haven't mastered capitalization and punctuation, so I knew I would have to break down the mechanics of writing an opinion statement into a step-by-step process for them. This week I am happy to share with you a few tips along with the graphic organizers I created to help get my students writing opinion pieces that showed me that my students, while not quite there yet, were fully capable of making it to the top of that mountain.

Introduce the Language of Opinion Writing

The very first thing we did during a writing mini-lesson was go over the language of opinion writing and how certain words, like fun and pretty are opinion clues because while they may be true for some people, they are not true for everyone. We also discuss how other words, called transitions, are signals to your reader as to where you are in your writing: the beginning, middle or end.

After the initial vocabulary is introduced, I challenged my third graders to look for examples of these types of words in their everyday reading. Over the next couple of days, students used sticky notes to add opinion or transition words they found to an anchor chart posted on a classroom wall. Next, I took the words and put them into a chart that I copied for students to glue into their writer's notebooks. You can see our chart below. If you would like to print your own copy, just click on the image.

 

Introduce Easy-to-Read Opinion Pieces

Most of my third graders have read a wide variety of genres by this point in third grade, but when asked if they had ever read the "opinion genre," they answered with a resounding, "No!"  I pointed out to them that they actually read opinion articles nearly every week in our Scholastic News magazine. At that point, I let them dive into the archives of old articles online and they were quickly able to find opinion pieces in several of the issues we had read this year. Students also used the debate section of the online issues. 

On the board we listed some of the articles students found in Scholastic News that contained opinions:

Many Scholastic news articles are perfect to use because they are short, and for the most part have a structure that is similar to how I want my students to write. The articles often include:

  • Both sides of the argument
  • Clearly stated opinions
  • Reasons for holding that opinion
  • Examples to support the reasons
  • Conclusions that are restated with enthusiasm

In the image below, you can see below how easy it was for my students to find the opinions, supporting reasons and examples in the "Debate It" feature we read together on whether the U.S. Mint should stop making pennies.

 

Model, Model, Model!

Once students read the article about pennies, they were ready to form an opinion. After discussing the pros and cons with partners, the class took sides. With students divided into two groups, they took part in a spirited Visible Thinking debate called Tug of War. After hearing many of their classmates voice their reasoning for keeping or retiring the penny, the students were ready to get started putting their thoughts on paper. 

At this time, I introduced our OREO graphic writing organizer. Using the name of a popular cookie is a mnemonic device that helps my students remember the structural order their paragraphs need to take: Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion. In our class, we say our writing is double-stuffed, because two reasons and two examples are expected instead of one. 

Because this was our first foray into example writing, we worked through the organizer together.

My students did pretty well with the initial organizer and we used it again to plan out opinion pieces on whether sledding should be banned in city parks.

Once students had planned out two different opinions, they selected one to turn into a full paragraph in their writer's notebooks. The organizers made putting their thoughts into a clear paragraph with supporting reasons and examples very easy for most students. 

 

With each practice we did, my students got stronger and I introduced different organizers to help them and to keep interest high. Giving each student one sandwich cookie to munch on while they worked on these organizers helped keep them excited about the whole process. 

After we worked our way through several of the Scholastic News opinion pieces, my third graders also thought of issues pertinent to their own lives and school experiences they wanted to write about, including:

  • Should birthday treats and bagel sales be banned at school?
  • Should all peanut products be banned?
  • Should we be allowed to download our own apps on the iPads the school gave us?

As we continued to practice, different organizers were introduced. Those are shown below. Simply click on each image to download and print your own copy. 

The organizer below is my favorite to use once the students are more familiar with the structure of opinion paragraphs. It establishes the structure, but also helps students remember to use opinion-based sentence starters along with transition words. 

 

Below is a simple organizer some of my students can also choose to use.

 

Other Resources I Have Used

Scholastic offers many different resources for helping your students become better with their opinion writing, or for younger writers, understanding the difference between fact and opinion. A great one to have in your classroom is: 12 Write-On/Wipe-Off Graphic Organizers That Build Early Writing Skills.

 

Click on the images below to download and print. There are many more sheets like these in Scholastic Teachables.

 
A couple weeks into our persuasive writing unit and I have already seen a lot of progress from our very first efforts. We may not have mastered this writing yet, but we are definitely on our way and that mountain doesn't seem quite so high anymore. I hope you find a few of these tips and my graphic organizers helpful! I'd love to hear your tips for elementary writing in the comment section below.

 

 

I'd love to connect with you on Twitter and Pinterest!

 

 

Teacher Store Resources

I love using the graphic organizers in my Grade 3 Writing Lessons to Meet the Common Core. Other teachers in my building use the resources for their grade level as well. They make them for grades 1-6. 

 

 

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