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Graphic organizers to support student writing at Forest Manor

Friday, 6 December 2013

Graphic organizers to support student writing at Forest Manor

One idea to support students in writing a narrative

Many students benefit with the use of a graphic organizer to support their learning. The use a graphic organizer as part of students' writing process, provides them with a concrete visual way that students can make sense of connections, patterns and relationships between their ideas.

At a recent Assistive Technology itinerant referral, Special Education teacher Angela MacMillan-Suzuki and Itinerant Resource Teacher Valia Reinsalu explored the use of the Interactive Whiteboard along with the graphic organizer programme SMART Ideas to support MacMillan-Suzuki's students in writing their own narratives.

First, students experienced a whole group lesson using the interactive whiteboard (IWB), to review ideas about the structure of narratives and and to create their first digital graphic organizer. Planned for the second part of the lesson, students will create their own graphic organizer and fill in the details to scaffold and support their organization of ideas as a first step in creating their own stories.

Supporting the writing process
The IWB provided a large, visual interactive learning space. The teachers facilitated the lesson as students took turns at the board, in order to co-construct a blank narrative planner. SMART Ideas' organizer elements are all customizable and editable. The class used of different shapes, colours and size of text, to visually represent and reinforce the overall structure of a narrative.

Lesson part 1
As a first step in understanding and using strategies and tools of SMART Ideas, the class co-created a narrative graphic organizer based on their knowledge of the picture book: The Gigantic Turnip.

Step 1.

The Forest Manor students were able to access the board in different ways, writing each element of a narrative on the board using a pen, keyboard or their finger (eg. setting, character, problem and solution). 

The SMART Ideas toolbar prompts the student 
to choose how he would like to convert the writing. (see toolbar above student's hand).
The student can convert the  text into an information element.

Step 2.

Students added details of the story, The Gigantic Turnip, to each narrative element heading. By choosing a red hexagon and black text for the narrative element (eg. character) and blue pentagon with white text (details and names of characters in the story), students had a visual and concrete reminder how the parts were related.

This student used the pull-down arrow to add a detail
to the Character element.  

Once an element is added, a student can add text to the detail by using the online keyboard to type information. 
Students can use Read and Write Gold within SMART Ideas to provide them with writing support (spelling, word prediction, text-to-speech).

Ms. MacMillan-Suzuki with her student's first digital graphic organizer in progress.
Lesson part 2 (to be continued)
Students will be creating their own narrative organizers and filling it with their own details and ideas. Once all their text is added, a SMART Ideas organizer can be converted into a Microsoft Word document. In that format, the Word document contains organized, categorized jot notes, which students can add to and edit, using Read and Write Gold tools, until they have completed a well-written story.

The itinerant referral is one of the many roles that the Assistive Technology itinerant teachers is to support Special Education teachers and their classrooms through individual referrals. Through the Job Embedded Professional Learning model, the AT team and classroom teacher and IRT co-plan and co-teach lessons which incorporate the use of assistive technology software tools to differentiate learning. 

All together there are six itinerant teachers supporting special education teachers in Assistive Technology in the TDSB. Referral forms can be found on the internal TDSB web site.

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