History · The Unraveled Teacher

Using Graphic Organizers in AP® World History

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.

AP® World History Graphic Organizers

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.

Download free graphic organizers for AP® World here.

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.


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