Graphic Organizers in the Social Studies Classroom

Using Graphic Organizers in Social Studies Classroom
The social studies curriculum keeps getting bigger, but the amount of class time allotted to actually teach content keeps getting smaller. Teachers are responsible to present large quantities of information and students are being asked to do more with that information than ever before. How do we accomplish so many tasks, achieve so many goals, and meet so many standards in such a small amount of time?

Graphic organizers have been helping teachers condense information forever, and they have become more of a necessity in the 21st century classroom. Organizers help students to chunk information into smaller doses, making it easier to retain and understand. More importantly, the students are asked to determine which pieces of information are most important and pertinent to the task at hand. This requires students to use advanced skills such as critical thinking, reading comprehension, evaluation, compare, and contrast, among many others.

Graphic organizers are also a precursor to what students will be asked to achieve in higher education. Note cards and categorizing research sources are an integral part of research papers, and simple graphic organizers in the primary and secondary grades lead to a logical progression in complexity in college.

There are graphic organizers for almost any activity. Webs, the most commonly used organizer, are available in every conceivable design. There are subject specific organizers, or generic ones that can be used across disciplines. They are all, however, adaptable for any use or course that you teach.

Help Teaching has an extensive library of graphic organizers that can improve any lesson and accomplish many learning objectives. Check out the list below, each with suggestions for the social studies classroom.

Boxes and Bullets Organizer This organizer helps students to practice listening skills and the ability to determine the important facts while you give a brief interactive lecture. It can also be useful in categorizing important pieces of information, as displayed in this activity using features of geography in the world today.
Boxes and Bullets Organizer This template is a terrific way to prep for a cause and effect essay and showing the direct correlations between different events. I love to use this organizer to summarize a lesson or unit.
Boxes and Bullets Organizer Sometimes the best way to understand something is by breaking it down into its parts. This organizer allows students to see the details of a person or event to better comprehend the larger meaning and context.
Boxes and Bullets Organizer This model gives students help in learning about causation and chronology. Take a look at this activity that asks students to order Cold War events chronologically.
Boxes and Bullets Organizer Tried and true, the Venn still has many uses when comparing and contrasting people, places, events, and more. Check out this mini project using a Venn diagram that asks students to apply their findings.
Boxes and Bullets Organizer Branching out from the center, this web allows a large amount of information to be condensed into a manageable, concise chunk.

There’s no one way to use a graphic organizer. As with any method, it’s always best to adapt it to meet your own needs and the needs of your students. Hopefully Help Teaching’s examples of printables using graphic organizers can set you up for an effective foray into the world of graphic organizers.


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