Using Advance Organizers in Your Classroom

Teachers utilize advance organizers to introduce a lesson and guide kids on how to think about it. Much like the right movie trailer, an advance organizer gives kids a preview of what’s to come and gets them interested in seeing what’s next. It also works by helping kids link what they already know with what they’re about to learn.

Research shows that advance organizers can help kids learn. And that’s especially true for kids who have attention issues or trouble staying organized. Advance organizers remind learners of what they already know and help them organize the new info they’re about to take in. This can help kids understand what they are learning, so they can recall it later.

Typical Advance Organizers

  • Your kid’s teachers are probably already using advance organizers. You may want to try some of these strategies at home when you’re helping your kid get ready to begin an assignment. Here are some examples of advance organizers.
  • Expository advance organizers give learners a broad idea of the lesson’s purpose before the lesson begins. For example, a teacher may tell learners what the lesson’s goals are: “We have discussed what habitats are and why some animals like to live in different places than other animals do. Today our goal is to learn about the four layers of tropical rainforest and which animals live in each of those distinct layers.”
  • Narrative advance organizers include storytelling. At the start of the class, the teacher might tell an interesting story that relates to essential ideas in the lesson: “Today, I will tell you a story regarding a little tree frog who managed to climb from the forest floor up to the  top of the tallest tree in the rainforest.”
  • Skimming is another type of advance organizer. A teacher may ask learners to skim over a reading, focusing on highlighted info, such as captions or chapter headings. That makes them familiar with the content before they read it thoroughly. Younger learners might take a “picture walk” through the reading.
  • Graphic organizers structure info visually or in pictures. They’re typical one-page forms with lots of blank areas, so they’re easy for learners to skim before the lesson. For example, a teacher might give learners a tree-drawing with lines denoting each of the four layers of the rainforest. As the lesson goes on, the learners can fill in the graphic organizer with the layers and the animals that live in them.
  • KWL charts are a form of advance organizer. Prior to the beginning of a lesson, learners may be asked to divide a page into 3 columns. Then learners use the first column to write what they believe they already know (K) about rainforests. In the second column, learners add what they would like to know (W) to know about rainforests. Finally, students write what they’ve learned (L) in the third column. Creating a KWL chart makes learners think about what they already know. That makes them feel comfortable with the new content they’re learning. Their interest and focus may expand.
  • Analogies are juxtapositions of two things comparable in some way that can also be used as advance organizers. Research has shown that it helps learners to realize that a new subject relates to something familiar. For instance, in one study, two groups of learners were given an article about how radar works. The first group’s article started with a poor analogy comparing radar to a ball bouncing off a wall. The second group’s article did not include an analogy. When assessed on how well they’d understood, the group reading the article with the analogy performed higher. They used their prior knowledge about how a ball bounces to understand how radar works.

Advance organizers are a tool that can help kids with cognitive differences understand new info easily. You may want to learn about standard techniques for helping struggling learners. You may also want to read about the importance of working with your kid’s teacher.

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