Graphic organizers can help students harness both their intellectual and creative gifts.
Graphic organizers are work sheets used in the classroom to help students analyze and understand conceptual material. They are usually used with new material or student-created material. They are created in such a way that new knowledge is organized visually, helping the student to “see” it more clearly and helping the teacher efficiently check for student understanding. Although graphic organizers generally support all student learning, there are specific ways in which they can benefit gifted students.
Graphic organizers promote the clear organization of concepts and material the student is trying to learn. They give the student an opportunity to categorically sort her ideas and think through each possible step in a logical manner. This can be especially powerful for gifted students because they may understand material without knowing why they understand it. Graphic organizers give them an opportunity to slow down their thinking and really know what they know and why.
Graphic organizers promote focus in students as well. Having a concrete product before them that represents the conceptual work they are doing helps students keep their minds focused on the task at hand. This is also a wonderful way to keep a gifted student focused and challenged. Because a graphic organizer is usually designed to be filled out individually, a student who may be accelerated will be just as challenged as a student who is struggling with the assignment.
Graphic organizers also help free up space in a student’s mind. They work as a means of cognitive offload, which means the student doesn’t have to carry all his knowledge internally. Cognitive offloading can help students see what they think and allow them to make connections they might not have if they been holding onto the information and conceptual work internally.
Graphic organizers provide a way for all students to share the information they’ve gained. This is especially valuable in a classroom that values collaboration and group work. Because the graphic organizers can be filled out individually, there are many different thought processes and approaches represented in the work. This can be valuable to gifted students, because it allows them to share their thinking and work with others in an concise way.
Because graphic organizers are filled out by students individually and can all be different representations of student thought and reasoning, they are necessarily student-centered. This means they are not prescribed and scripted, even though they usually take the form of a work sheet. Gifted students can benefit greatly from the opportunity to show their knowledge in their own way. This can build confidence and trust in the classroom for all students.