Graphic Organizers are big in the education world, for good reason: They help students to visually organize their information. It gives them another way to interpret the information that they are reading/learning in their classes. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try to use a graphic organizer to help students organize their thoughts for stories. It’s something that other reading teachers do, things like webs and diagrams and maps. I thought I’d try it out. I took a few minutes and broke down the parts of a Blaine Ray-style story and gave them each their own box. I taught the students what personaje principal means and we got to work.
For Younger Students
Right off the bat, I started using these with 1st and 2nd grade. I have now used it with 4th and 5th grade as well. The 1st and 2nd graders did their maps based on a spoken story in class. They didn’t read the story.
1st Grade and 2nd Grade – It worked well, but I had to guide students through it very closely. It was very helpful to have actors and to have places where the actors go (a TPRS must-do for comprehension). I was able to point to the student actors and the others knew what I was talking about without me having to switch to English. Since first graders (and to a lesser extent 2nd graders) are building their writing skills, we filled the boxes with pictures. This was a great help for them to remember what happened in the story. They were able to do partner retells (in English) and some brave volunteers even told the story to their homeroom teachers! They felt so confident having the organizer to remember to help remember the details.
A completed story map based on Embedded Reading of LICT Level 1, Chapter 1, Story B
4th Grade – The picture above is based on the reading activity that the 4th graders did. The students then wrote a summary of the story using the organizer and the text of the story as guides. They were very successful-I had noticeably fewer questions about what happened in the text while they were retelling the story on their own.
Overall, using a graphic organizer of some kind is something that I recommend wholeheartedly. This particular one had more than just the benefit of organizing the students’ thoughts to help them comprehend: it also gave me the gave me the opportunity to get in more repetitions of the target structures (tiene, va a, quiere, etc).
For the Older Students
In the future (or to older students), I may even give these out and have students complete them as an assessment.
The other idea is to use the organizers as a way to start the students writing stories of their own. These writing assignments wouldn’t be the same as our timed writing or free writing activities, which are designed for assessing students’ fluency using the target structures, rather these will be for summative assessments-projects and “test-grade” kinds of activities.
5th Grade – we experimented using the organizer in the way I described above. The students were able to formulate their ideas well and then were able to transfer them to the written stories much easier than before when they would simply write from the tops of their heads. The assignment is not summative, more of a dry-run for this kind of activity, but I am optimistic that this will be a great tool in the arsenal for getting the students to write better in our class.