Graphic organizer is a visual and graphic display that shows the relationship of facts and terms within a learning task so as to convert any complex information into meaning information to the person using or being shown. The graphics can also provide a structure for bringing together ideas and sorting those ideas for discussion, writing, and research. This implies that the graphic organizers represents how one relates patterns or concepts together hence facilitating the learning and understanding ability of the student.
However, when it comes to the third grade students, the teachers have the responsibility of explaining the graphic organizers to the student and making them to understand better since this determines the effectiveness of graphic organizers to the students and the better explanation from the teachers, the greater the performance. Although, these graphic organizers are suited for all levels of learning, they are more suitable especially where comprehension, reading and vocabulary skills are much needed.
Graphic organizers can increase the learning potential of students if used effectively. This is evidenced by the exponential improvement in reading and vocabulary knowledge gained by the third grade students.
Students in third grade are able to get better understanding of the hidden concepts within the reading materials especially when using the graphic organizers hence making one to have knowledge on what is better for their learning and what is not. In such as scenario where graphic organizers are being used, students are in a better position to get the main themes or concepts from a given reading material.
Since graphic organizers helps one to organize the concepts gained in a better way, it is a useful tool therefore to the children since they can be able to organize their ideas while communicating. Apart from organizing their ideas, these students are in a better position to brainstorm on what information is being passed across. This will greatly improve their communication and writing skills this is because this method is known to be a better learning tool as compared to those students who take notes and those students who engage themselves in group discussions.
These third grade students are encouraged to compare their real life experiences with the graphic organizers as this will facilitate their understanding more easily. This is normally achieved through being motivated to learn from the graphic designers
There are different forms of graphic organizers which one needs to understand better and each form is capable of organizing specific type of data. Some these graphic organizers forms are:
- Descriptive organizer which is used to map generic data.
- Sequential episodic map which is used to map relationship between effects and causes.
- A problem-solution map outline used by students to compare different solutions to a given problem
- Comparative and contrastive map use by students to compares features of two concepts and then contrasts the features of the concepts.
- RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The study originally consisted of 9 third grade students, and was conducted in a Southeastern Title one, inner-city elementary school. Prior to the research study, 4 of the students made the decision not to participate. The school population is made up of 562 students which include 525 African American, 23 Hispanic, 6 Caucasian, and 8 Multi-racial students. The study took place in the participating teacher’s classroom three days per week, over a two-week period. I was allotted a thirty minute block of time from 11:15 a.m.-11: 45 a.m. to conduct my research. The 5 participants were grouped together and isolated from the general classroom population during this time.
Description of the Sample
The sampling method I used was purposeful and convenient sampling. The participants of this research were 5 third grade students consisting of 3 boys and 2 girls and were selected based on their low reading levels. Permission was obtained via consent forms from the participant’s parents and the participant’s themselves. There were no risks physically or mentally to any of the students. I ensured early on that I gained the trust and comfortability of each student. They were informed individually and cohesively as a group that the research study may be beneficial to them in numerous ways; however, no pressure to participate was applied to any of the students, and I informed them that they were given free will to exit the study at any time.
My research hypothesis is a follows: Third grade students who read below grade level will increase comprehension with the implementation of graphic organizers with their work. My null hypothesis is as follows: There is no statistically significant relationship with third grade students using graphic organizers to increase comprehension.
I used a quasi-experimental design, with a Harcourt leveled reading Science kit entitled “Minerals, Rocks, and Soils of Georgia” to collect my data. The sampling method used was purposeful and convenient. I measured the variables by utilizing the reading kit. The kit included various reading passages that are geared toward student’s independent reading ability. There are a set of questions at the end of each passage that test for comprehension and understanding. The kit also provides the teacher with a guide that identifies key points and scores accordingly. I used the reading kit during guided reading as a pre- and post-test. My research was a non-experimental procedure due to the absence of control or comparison subjects in my study. The T-test application was used to determine the data.
A pre-test post-test, quasi-experimental design was used in this study. The Harcourt leveled reading kit entitled “Minerals, Rocks, and Soils of Georgia” contained several reading passages geared towards Science. Each student was given the same passage to read and instructed to answer the questions following the passage during the pre-test. The answers to those questions were scored and assessed on the knowledge, understanding of information, ideas, concepts, and their relationships. Figure 1 displays the rubric that was used to measure those areas. As shown, students were assigned a level from one to four, depending on the quality and accuracy of their answers.
Figure 1 Reading Comprehension Rubric-Knowledge/Understanding
• Records accurate,
by the task (e.g.,
in completing a
• Makes reasonable
• recording limited
accurate and relevant
• making few, if
• making some
may be somewhat
vague or confusing
• making simple
• recording the
• making insightful
Three days per week, from 11:15 a.m-11:45am, I presented 5 students in the same classroom with a Harcourt leveled reading Science kit. The first chapter of the science kit contained three different reading passages. On the first day of the study, each student was instructed to read the first passage from the reading kit. This passage entitled, “What Are Minerals and Rocks?” was followed by a series of four questions. These four questions were used as the pre-test for the study. The students were not allowed to use a graphic organizer with the pre-test. The following day, I scored each pre-test and recorded the results. My next visit to the classroom consisted of a group review of graphic organizer’s. The purpose of a graphic organizer was discussed and I provided them with researched facts on why they are effective tools. I then introduced the graphic organizer they would be using for the study, illustrated how to use it, and conducted a brief Q & A to assess their understanding and comprehension.
Prior to administering the post-test, the participant’s and I collectively engaged in a lesson from the reading kit. “What Are the Types of Rocks?” was read by each participant, and was instructed to use the graphic organizer by pulling out the main ideas and supporting details. Once again, I reviewed the purpose of graphic organizer’s, answered questions from the participant’s, and ensured that each student had proper understanding.
The next step in this procedure consisted of the administration of the post-test. Each student read “What Are Some Types of Soil?” and answered the questions that followed the passage. However, as opposed to the pre-test, they used a graphic organizer. The following day I scored each test and recorded the results. To conclude my research study, I visited the classroom a final time to survey and speak briefly with each participant. I individually provided them their pre- and post-test scores, and we reflected over the two weeks of the study. The survey consisted of 5 questions to evaluate the student’s viewpoint of the study.
Method of Data Analysis
The data I collected and analyzed was straightforward and concise. After I scored each test from the participant’s, the results were recorded and later compared. I then took those results and compared them to several research studies that were similar to the study I conducted. The independent variable was the graphic organizer; and the dependent variable was the student’s comprehension. A quasi-experimental design, using a pre- and post-test on a single group of students, who were selected based on their low reading levels from a third grade population, was used to test my hypothesis. A T- test was used to analyze the data. The timeframe for the research was a two-week period. Standard like tests were used in this study to establish trustworthiness for the validity and reliability of this study.
Results and Conclusions
The purpose of this research was to determine if graphic organizers will increase knowledge retention in elementary school children, specifically third grade students reading below grade level. Ellis (2001) identifies three advantages of using graphic organizers: they make content easier to understand; they allow material to be addressed at more sophisticated levels; and they may enable students to become more strategic learners. Once the student gains an organizational structure for a given topic, his/her reading, writing, and communication skills are likely to improve with the use of graphic organizers. As organization begins to make content information easier to understand, graphic organizers allow future information to be addressed at more sophisticated levels. At the end of my research study, there was a statistically significant increase in comprehension in third-grade students (t = 2.74, df = 5, p = .002).
Traditional Text-Based Learning
Research has shown that most textbooks are full of facts but do not reveal how the facts are linked together to develop knowledge forms (Jitendra, et al., 2001). As a result of this, teachers must aid the student in making these valuable learning connections. The teacher can determine what concepts are important to develop, then choose the proper graphic organizer to facilitate student learning.
The graphic organizer shown below in Figure 2 provides teachers the opportunity to illustrate the structure and organization of information. The visual displays that are a part of graphic organizers allow students to link prior knowledge to new learning, which leads to a deeper level of understanding for the student. While the facts are important, understanding the concepts related to the facts can enhance the learning process for many students.
On the initial day of my research study, each student was given the same reading passage, and was instructed using traditional teaching methods to read it and answer the questions that followed; additionally, they were not allowed to use a graphic organizer. On the pre-test, the average grade amongst the five students was 65%. Three of the students earned a Level 1 on the Rubric analysis; one student earned a Level 3, and the remaining student earned the highest ranking at Level 4.
Schema theory is another very important aspect of understanding the learning process. Schema theory states that memory is composed of a network of interrelated cognitive structures called schemas. “A schema is a knowledge structure that accompanies or facilitates a mental process” (Winn, 1996, p. 2.). Schemas essentially contain the sum of a student’s knowledge. They are how students organize and process information. Formation of schemas comes through making generalities, not simply acquiring specific information. Schemas allow students to link prior knowledge to new incoming information. Graphic Organizers can aid the student in this relational process. For example, if you have to borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower to cut your grass, you have to rely on your general knowledge of lawn mowers to understand how to operate a lawn mower you have never used before, linking your prior knowledge about lawn mowers to understand how to operate your neighbor’s lawn mower.
Graphic Organizer’s and Reading Comprehension
During week two of the research study, the purpose and importance of a graphic organizer was reviewed and discussed with the students. This time they were allowed to use a graphic organizer, as it was used with the post-test. As discussed previously, when graphic organizers are used in conjunction with traditional text-based instruction, students are afforded the opportunity to use their elaboration skills to discuss topics based on their prior knowledge, while also grasping an understanding of new information.
As shown in the Figure 3 and 4 charted below, there was an overall significant increase in the post-test grades for each student, as well as an increase in comprehension and understanding on the rubric analysis. Two of the five students doubled their scores; two students increased their scores by 25%, while the remaining student’s score remained the same
There has been an ongoing debate for many years on whether or not graphic organizers are effective for students that use them. According to the research I conducted, in addition to the research efforts of many others, graphic organizers have proven to be very effective in conjunction with traditional teaching methods. My research has shown that using proper graphic organizers will aid students in developing a solid understanding of various concepts and afford them the opportunity to express their understanding based on what they already know and to organize their thoughts in a logical sequence.
Four out of the five students who participated in this study had a significant increase in their test scores. This increase can only be credited to the addition of the graphic organizer they used, proving my hypotheses to be correct. One of the participants stated that, “I felt like I understood the story better when I used the graphic organizer”. The students became more engaged and interested in the assignment when the graphic organizer was used. My research shows that a graphic organizer is one way to help make a curriculum more supportive. Operations such as mapping cause and effect, note taking, comparing and contrasting concepts, organizing problems and solutions, and relating information to main ideas or themes can be beneficial to reading as well as many subject areas.
There is solid evidence for the effectiveness of graphic organizers in facilitating learning. Research that concludes with no positive outcome can be contingent on many factors. Important variables include grade level, point of implementation, instructional context, and ease of implementation. However, as mentioned earlier, sixteen of the twenty studies investigating effects of graphic organizer use on learning reviewed in this paper reported some positive learning outcome.
Recommendations for further research
It is necessary to allow for more time to do the study since they participants need enough time to learn and use the graphic organizers. More time will allow for more accurate and effective measures of the graphic organizers. The comparison group should not have a similar graphic organization. It is essential for some specific questions be used to assess the graphic organizer instruction. It is also good to design graphic organizers which are easy to use.
The graphical organizers should be designed differently for different grade level. The point of implementation of graphical organizers should be used while reading and not before starting reading. Graphical organizers should be substantive instructional in context as this will make learning to be more effective. There should be secure administrative support and parent education and involvement in order to implement such graphical organizers in the learning curriculum
The goals of the graphical organizers should be clearly identified and means of achieving them put in place. The status of the graphical organizers should be constantly monitored to ensure that the graphical organizers used by the teachers are understood by the students. The teachers should learn about the graphical organizers they are going to use and study the effects they will have to the students. Instructors should give clear relationship between the concepts and encourage student to give their ideas. There should be some support of recognition learning by giving flexible and multiple methods of presentation.
Supports of strategic learning since students have different abilities and weaknesses. The method to be used should be simple and flexible to make it easier to vary the instructions of skills.
Implications for classroom practice
Graphic organizers have been known to poses some implications on the third grade students. Majority of those implications are known to act in positive ways when it comes to learning as compared to the negative side. By this, what is meant is, the graphic organizer have become a tool when it comes to the students’ performance in class. This performance is normally done through motivations from those graphics. That is why when you compare those students who use other means when learning in class such as through group discussions or even taking notes those students who use graphic organizers are much far better when it comes to the equipped skills.
Concepts and information are also organized and structured through the use of graphic organizers. The reason behind all this is because the concepts and information are meant to relate with each other so as to bring out a relevant meaning of the information to the third grade students. By this, it means, whenever information is given to the student, he/she should take it in, internalize on it, and get the meaning of that information. With the better understanding of the information, identifying the missing information by the third grade students is much easier.
Each and every student is normally made to brainstorm in class so as to improve their thinking capacity and performance. This brainstorming is normally done through maybe group discussions or even during class work. However, this is not much better tool as compared to using the graphic organizers tool where ideas can be presented correctly.
In general, graphic organizers ways of learning in a third grade students has been considered to be the best tool since apart from improving the thinking ways of that student, it also improves the writing skills of the students in class.
Limitations of the use of graphic organizers
The amount of time allocated for the experiment was not enough. The research was done for a short period of time that is each session had thirty minutes and there three sessions over a two week period. This amount of time is too way small to assess the capabilities of the third grade students with lower reading level in comprehending the use of the graphic organizers in their studies. Though it was a little enough to ensure that each student had a grasp of how effective the graphic organizers can be if fully used in their learning.
Method used to evaluate the performance of the third grade student was not standard
The study was limited to a small sample size of only five students who were selected according to their performance. This made study inadequate therefore, it is important that the sample size be increased.
Lose of focus
Some students may lose the concentration they have to put into their assignment as they will spend most of their time sounds shapes, colors.
Students may spend more time on graphical objects than listening to the teachers. This can be a menace when it comes to managing a class.
The teacher may choose to use many graphical organizers in her teaching. This might lead to students getting confused by these many objects they have to analyze and understand them
Graphic organizer cannot be used in all topics taught in class hence its reliability depends on the topic to be discussed and not the whole syllabus.
This is one of the most common limitations of graphic organizers. There is a lot of time wasting while using these objects. It is not easy for all the students to understand the meaning or interpretation of the graphic at the same time. So it will take time to explain these objects over and over until all the students understands the graphic before moving on to another graphic otherwise most students will be left behind in understanding the graphic organizers.
Impact on performance
Taking notes in class and learning of materials through graphic representations becomes hard for one to do both and hence shallow notes are taken. This will have a big impact on the students when they want to do revision. This will result to students performing poorly since they will lack comprehensive revision materials.
Impact on Feedback
Different students will give different graphic organizer when asked to answer a question about them. Since these graphic organizers are used to aid in understanding a discussion, it is hard to correct each organizers made by each student.
Inadequacy in teacher instruction
The graphic organizers effectiveness is doomed to fell if the teacher using such objects gives wrong instruction about how to use and interpret the graphics. It is important the teacher understands the features and the use of the graphics properly before coming to teach the students.
The functions of graphic organizer in general are many, for instance, a graphic organizer is aimed at explaining the relationship between concepts. In doing so they tend to organize information into categories and this will facilitate the definition of different concepts. The process of thinking is efficiently supported by visual organization of knowledge.
The process of choosing the most suitable knowledge in graphic organizer is very technical and needs to be evaluated thoroughly before arriving at the final result. This process enhances the critical thinking and learning of comprehension in school. This might lead to students being able to strengthen their learning process
Integration of new knowledge into the existing system of knowledge leads to a superior learning process. Finally, identification of conceptual and perpetual errors can be disclosed by filling in the graphic organizer hence making it possible for the teacher and the student to continue with the required revision.
In summary, teachers and instructors are able to meet needs of their students by using the graphical organizers since the students can be able to understand or easily recall information better. In addition, graphical organizers make learning interesting and varied leading to improve the ability to retain and recall easily.
The use of graphic organizer improves acts as a roadmap for new learners to use as a guide to new contents. Hence, the performance of students is enhanced by the graphic organizer. Also students’ thinking can be reinforced through graphic organizer and students can be able to transfer difficult information from one area of memory to the other like from short term to long term memory.