Teaching Reading: Using Graphic Organizers to Aid in Reading Comprehension
Graphic organizers aren't just for writing essays. They can be a valuable learning tool in a variety of lesson plans, including reading lessons. Use graphic organizers in your classroom to help your students actively read and engage with the texts you give them. The graphic organizers can work as reading notes during reading, and after reading they can help the students write a response to the story.
Make Your Own
A graphic organizer doesn't have to be a big, complicated production. It can be as simple as asking kids to draw a few lines on their own paper. For instance, you might ask your students to create a K/W/L chart about the topic you're studying for the day. They would have to draw three columns on their paper, and in the first they would write down everything they know about the topic. In the second, they'd write everything they want to know. In the third, they would write down the information they learn about the topic as they read.
Another easy DIY graphic organizer is the t-chart. A t-chart is a two-column chart students can use for note-taking. You might tell them what to put in the first column, and they would fill in the second one as they read. So for instance, you might have them look up passages that explain how the characters feel. Then in the first column you would have them list the names of a few characters, and in the right column they would cite the text. Or you might have them look for specific literary devices, so in the first column they would list those devices and in the second they would cite samples of the devices from the text.
For a longer text, you might try a Divide and Conquer graphic organizer. In this type of organizer, you have students divide their paper into four sections; one section for each 1/4 of the text. Then you would have them divide each section into smaller ones, where they must list specific elements or make specific commentary for each section.
If you don't want to make your own graphic organizers, or you think your students need more guidance than that, there are a wealth of online resources for you to turn to. Try ReadWriteThink.org, which has a variety of graphic organizers in their Student Interactives section. Using this site, kids can type in their ideas onto the graphic organizer formats, prompted by the computer to know what to type. Then they can print their graphic organizers and use them for other things. This is especially useful as a differentiation option for kids who need help with handwriting or breaking down a task.
Houghton-Mifflin's Education Place site also has a variety of printable graphic organizers. You can find several options here to use with your class, so your students will never get bored with using reading comprehension graphic organizers. Print them and copy one for each student, or put one on an overhead projector and let students work together as a class to fill it in.