Graphic organizers are a great way to help students visualize important information. I like to include them in history instruction because there can be so much information delivered- especially in an AP® course- that many students need a way to organize that information so they can more effectively retain the content.
Graphic organizers offer students a way to visually show relationships between ideas, concepts, and information. For some students, it is really important that they have a chance to engage visually with content. This is why I love using graphic organizers in my history classes. Students can get “lecture fatigue” quite easily, especially if the course is lecture-dependent. Even though we know it’s best practice to have students take a more active role in their learning, sometimes in order to cover the required content for AP® World History, you have to lecture. By offering students a companion to a lecture topic in the form of a graphic organizer, they will most likely understand and retain that information much better.
In my ideal classroom, students will encounter crucial information at least three different times in different formats. This may include selected readings (including textbook reading), in-class lectures, short videos, independent or group projects, writing exercises, or through graphic organizers. For example, I might assign a section from the textbook, then have students complete a graphic organizer the next day, and follow up with a writing prompt that deals with that information. Or, I might lecture on a topic, have students complete a short project, and then at the end of the broader unit, assign a graphic organizer as a refresher.
Often times, the SPICE-T themes of AP® World make a great tool for developing graphic organizers for your students. I do find, however, that students can grow tired of doing SPICE-T exercises with every topic. For this reason, I set out to create a unique organizer for every topic of the course. I don’t always assign a graphic organizer for each topic, but I always have them ready to go. Sometimes I will include them in my sub plans when needed, or offer them to students who need or want some extra practice with a particular concept. One of my favorite ways to use them is to create a unit packet for review at the end of the year before the exam. However I may end up using them, they are always a critical part of successful instruction in my history classes.