Graphic Organizers For Common Core ELA
Reviewed by Joyce Depenbusch
As one of the more than 65% of the population who are visual learners, I learn best when I can clearly see what I am being taught.
I have long been an advocate of visual representations and graphic organizers in my classroom and when I tutor struggling students. So I was excited to receive in a single, bound source a set of graphic organizers arranged by the Common Core standards.
The layout of The Visual Edge – Graphic Organizers For Standards Based Learning by high school teacher Sargy Letuchy is easy to follow, and would be especially helpful to teachers early in their career or new to Common Core. Language Arts and Reading teachers would find particular benefit from its use. It would make a useful addition to a school’s professional library.
The organization of the book is by grade levels: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th-10th and 11th-12th. Within each grade level it is further divided by disciplines: reading informational text, reading literature text, writing, speaking/listening, language, history/social studies and science/technical.
Letuchy’s goal in writing the book and the layout he chose became clear after spending some time with the contents. The sheer number of Common Core standards to be taught in each grade would be overwhelming without some organized way to ensure it is accomplished. I commend the effort made to write, organize and make available to other teachers this body of work. Each page lists the CCSS, ELA – Literacy standard with the appropriate number and an explanation for each standard.
Grade specific graphic organizers
The graphic organizers build in complexity as the grade level increases, but since the standards share similarities, the graphic organizers do as well. In fact, with a few, sometimes minor, changes, the organizers are repeated numerous times throughout the book’s 433 pages. As a teacher in a small school, who has at one time been assigned teaching all of the 6th-8th science curriculum, I can see where an English Language Arts teacher in that same situation would be able to frequently use this book.
As students advance in grade and ability, graphic organizers can be easily implemented from the chapters that apply to that grade level and concept. It would also provide a very visible method to share with parents and administrators what students have been exposed to at each grade level in CCSS, ELA standards.
Suggested improvements for future editions
Completed examples for some of the more complex forms might be helpful to teachers and students. This would reduce errors students will make when using them outside of class.
The graphic organizers are very functional, but not very engaging. I fear middle grades students would lose interest as they repeatedly encountered these forms. The benefit students can gain from using any form may be lost on them if they get bored with their use. Making the documents a bit more eye appealing would possibly get more student buy-in for a longer time. Some of the boxes could be enlarged to make writing in the form easier, allowing for larger handwriting or more verbose answers.
There are ELA standards listed in the book that include an explanation but where “no table or graphic is applicable.” This leaves the reader with 47 nearly blank pages where that message repeated. The book could be rearranged with a notation in the Introduction that these standards do not align well with the organizers he has designed, reducing the book’s bulk and perhaps the cost.
Cross-curricular connections are made with social studies and science to the CCSS, ELA standards. The number of graphic organizers for these curricula are far less than for ELA. The science/technical sections do not list the appropriate Next Generation Science Standards. This connection could be fairly easily made with NGSS’s Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts. History, Government and Social Studies standards could be added to the appropriate pages as well.
SAMPLE PAGES FROM THE VISUAL EDGE
Notations at your finger tips
Many teachers may struggle to justify the $44.99 price to get a product similar (although not as detailed or specific) to what can be downloaded for free online. Even with the notation of Common Core ELA standards and an explanation for each, the content for several of the graphic organizers is still comparable to organizers that are available if teachers are willing to do some discriminating searching. Teachers more familiar with the CCSS, ELA standards might choose to save the purchase price of the book and add similar notations for each standard to existing documents if they feel the addition is important.
The bottom line for me is that I will use this book and encourage other staff to use it. Is it valuable? My answer is yes, but not to the extent that I had hoped.
I will gladly share it with the ELA staff in my district and use some of the forms when tutoring and some in my science classroom. Can I find or make other forms that work in a similar way without making this purchase? Yes, but these are already made with the notations that would save ELA teachers time – something no one has enough of during a school year.
For more than 38 years Joyce Depenbusch has been involved in education in one way or another. As an elementary and middle school teacher and as the wildlife education coordinator for Kansas, she has combined her love of children and nature. Currently, she is a middle and high school science teacher in rural south central Kansas. Joyce enjoys presenting at workshops about ways to implement the Next Generation Science Standards.