Graphic organizers help multilingual learners

Visual teaching tool helps Marumsco Hills Elementary School students become stronger writers

Learning to read and write a new language can be a challenge at any age, but with the use of graphic organizers, Darianella Baret an ESOL teacher at Marumsco Hills Elementary School, is watching her students thrive. Graphic organizers are used to visually represent ideas, concepts, and relationships between various components, making content more comprehensible for students.

Baret recently used graphic organizers in a lesson about how to identify the main idea and supporting details of a book. After reading a book together, she instructed her second grade students to use a graphic organizer while reviewing the book. Students wrote down the main idea and other details, and were able to write a summary based on the information in their graphic organizer.

 “Multilingual learners need academic content in comprehensible ways. Graphic organizers transform academic tasks into smaller, feasible, and visual ways which in return allows them to better understand while learning important vocabulary. It is also a powerful tool for oral language proficiency because it makes engaging in academic discussions manageable,” explained Baret.

Students can use the graphic organizer in various ways and across contents areas. John, a second grader, said, “I feel like it helps me write faster and learn more words. I use it when I write in my journal.”

The resource is especially useful as students dive deeper into more complex writing and reading skills. Adela, a second grader, shared that it’s helping her prepare for the more challenging work that she will be assigned in third grade.

“A graphic organizer has boxes that help me stay organized. I can make mistakes and fix them, then my sentences start to turn into paragraphs,” she explained.

The teaching tool serves as a scaffold for students learning how to prewrite, question, connect, analyze, and organize their work. Because it’s a scaffold, the goal is to gradually remove it after the student is comfortable.

Baret said, “I must differentiate to meet the needs of my multilingual students. It is my duty to bridge the gap between content and where students are in their learning, so I’m constantly assessing when students are ready for the next step. My hope is that by scaffolding using graphic organizers my students learn academic content, become stronger and more independent writers, but also more confident in their oral language abilities.”

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