I’m not the most visual person when it comes to studying and organizing information. I didn’t like required clusters or webs for pre-writing activities in K-12, but I know that they are very helpful for other learners.
Today in ENGL4433, we discussed a variety of graphic organizers and the kinds of organization they favor: the t-chart and Venn diagram for compare-contract; the cluster / bubble / spider for brainstorming on a single topic; and timelines and flowcharts for sequence and cause-effect analysis.
While I strongly believe that a good deal of the benefit of a graphic organizer comes from physically writing information into various boxes and ovals, I also know that handwriting is an issue for many students.Those with cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, and physical challenges may struggle with the fine motor skills required to squeeze ideas into a 1×2 inch box, while those with dyslexia or dysgraphia can write very slowly and become stressed by the task of a graphic organizer that is supposed to simplify and clarify ideas!
When a 504 or IEP plan requires the use of a computer for writing assignments, what can be done when the task is a graphic organizer? Fortunately there are several options.
Online Interactive Organizers
Holt offers an impressive 38 different fillable graphic organizer PDF files, categorized by goal (brainstorming, cycle, compare-contrast). Teachers could use a printed PDF for most of the students and then have some complete the exact same worksheet on a computer.
To work on those fine motor skills and encourage critical thinking, students can use the free Google Drive Drawing tool to create their own graphic organizer. Do they want a cluster or a flowchart? They can choose from a variety of pre-set shapes and callouts, then add a text box, and type away. Finished projects can be shared with classmates, downloaded as Word or PDF files to print, and/or sent to the teacher via email.