I recently stumbled across the notion of graphic organisers while rummaging around on Pinterest, although it’s probably an idea most teachers will have come across or informally used. Venn diagrams or tables of information, for example, represent proto forms of graphical organisation.

Sandringham School Version

All this post suggests is that it’s possible to formalise these practices into graphical formats that allow you and your students to represent information in visually consistent ways, either by providing students with information templates (a solid state form of graphical organisation that involves students using pre-existing graphical formats) or by encouraging them to develop their own graphical organisational forms (a free-form version that operates within a loose set of rules).

This post focuses on the solid state form because it’s the easiest to construct (there are loads of pre-existing templates) and initially explain to students. The ability to use existing templates as a way of representing and structuring information is also a big advantage when students are being introduced to this slightly different way of “making notes”.

If you’re interested in the free-form version have a look at this example of sociological perspectives (as an online flipbook or a pdf version)

Here, the rules are defined by the creator (such as an individual student); in this example the rules I’ve defined are simple: start with the main point you want to represent, show how various key ideas are linked to that idea and include short notes to illustrate each idea. This then builds into an overview “Map” of, in this case, sociological perspectives.

While free-form graphic organisers are probably the most personal and responsive types, they’re a technique that may be best introduced after your students have grasped the basic idea underpinning the graphical representation of information.

Solid State…

As I’ve suggested, there are a lot of different templates that can be applied to the graphical organisation of information and, if things pan-out as they should, I’ll be adding as many as I can find – and think are useful for a-level sociology or psychology – in later posts.

Initially, however, I want to focus on an organiser I came across through a post on the Sandringham School website by an unnamed sociology teacher. In basic terms, this took a model of graphical organisation developed by Frederick Frayer and adapted it slightly to reflect the needs of a-level sociology students.

Alternate Version

In turn, I’ve adapted the Sandringham version to focus on a more “strengths v weaknesses” approach to representing information. Both versions are included in this PowerPoint Presentation so you can either choose between them or adapt one or other to your own particular needs.

I’ve used PowerPoint for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, if you’re going to use graphic organisers with your students you’ll need to explain how they work and a PowerPoint Presentation seemed to me as good a way as any.

Secondly, if you want to use either or both versions with your students it’s easy enough to Export each set as a pdf document. Students can either type information into the document or copy the basic template onto A4 paper.

For reasons that will become clear if you use the PowerPoint / Pdf version, I’ve left the central box in the slide empty. It would normally be filled with whatever key concept / theory / method or perspective you want your students to cover.

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