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Here's an approach that is sure to improve content area test scores as well as students' essay-writing skills. A Graphic Organizer Notebook is a collection of teacher-developed blank webs and organizers for a student to complete after reading chunks of content material taught in a unit. Each blank graphic organizer form in the notebook is tailored to the text material to be studied. The organizer notebook is designed to provide students with meaningful frameworks for taking notes, illustrating concepts and key words, and organizing ideas for writing paragraphs and essays. The teacher's effectiveness in using this tool depends on the "science" of understanding various text structures and the "art" of implementing various reading, writing, and study strategies.
For decades, researchers have recognized that poor comprehension and writing skills are often due to an individual's inability to understand various text structures (Meyer, Brandt, & Bluth, 1980). In 1982, Olson and Longnion introduced "pattern guides" as an organizational strategy to assist students in learning content material. Aaronson (1985) recommended "study mapping" in lieu of conventional notetaking and "mnemotechnics" to aid students in the recall of information. Horowitz (1985) identified five organizational patterns found in expository text and presented visual layouts to illustrate them. These text patterns are listings (main ideas or topics with supporting details), time order, compare-contrast, cause-effect, and problem-solution passages.
Results of Kinney's (1985) study indicated that students at the elementary levels were able to understand and apply knowledge of expository text structures through Language Experience Approach activities. Another instructional approach for teaching text structure at the elementary levels was provided by McGee and Richgels (1985). Their comprehensive plan included building a three-dimensional model to show text structure. It also provided systematic teacher-directed instruction for using graphic organizers to create written summaries of text types.
More recent research conducted by Horton, Lovitt, and Bergerud (1990) supported the use of custom-designed organizers to complement segments of high school science material. Their findings indicated significant improvement in student quiz scores after graphic organizers had been implemented with teacher guidance. Furthermore, dramatic improvement was noted with students who had learning disabilities. Lovitt and …