March 5, 2013

How Graphic Organizers Amplify Content for ELLs

We hear it all the time from administrators and colleagues, consultants and professors..."More graphic organizers!"  But what exactly does that mean for our ELLs?  How do G.O.s help amplify the lessons we teach?

G.O.s help ELLs connect new and prior learning, and help students put vocabulary into long-term memory by using categories.  It is not just about memorizing words or lists or facts that are forgotten right after a quiz or test.  G.O.s work like our students' brains work, sorting new information in meaningful ways so it can be applied.  G.O.s are great to use with the whole class interacting, teacher modeling, with a partner, in small groups, or independently.

Think of them like a bridge that connects the old and the new!  New topics can be hard to teach ELLs unless they are able to make connections to what they already know.  Explicitly linking to their past experiences invests them and ensures that you are AMPLIFYING!  And adding visuals to the vocabulary whenever possible also ensures that it's not just learning for a quiz, but rather to be applied in reading, writing, listening and speaking for years to come.

I had the pleasure to meet Ruth Swinney and Patricia Velasco last year at Bank Street where they presented their incredible book Connecting Content and Academic Language for English Learners and Struggling Students Grades 2-6.  Talk about practical for teachers!  Templates, graphic organizers, lessons, sample charts, and even student sample work.  This is a must read for all teachers of ELLs that really hits on the way G.O.s AMP IT UP for our ELLs! 

For more ways to help ELLs organize new learning, check out this post about maximizing anchor charts in your classroom.

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