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Advance Organizers


Introduction to ideas of Advance Organizers in Teaching and Learning

Advance organizers can be thought of as extremely well-designed and thought out unit outlines. Presented before the actual topics to be learned (in advance of learned material), it is notable that the Advance Organizer model is designed to prepare students for how to think about the lessons to come, giving some detail about terminology and connections but not giving the entire unit content.


Advance organizers are not designed for day-to-day use; instead, they are used to provide a structure at the beginning of a major unit of study. Ausubel suggests 2 different types of organizers for 2 different purposesTthough others have suggested other organizers, they seem to fall within these categories:

1.   Comparative Organizers present a study of the differences between items the student already knows and what they are about to learn.

2.   Expository organizers present a basic concept at a very high, abstract level. They can be used in combination also, but it is more likely to be used separately as each has its own separate strength.


It is important to note that Ausubel’s Advance Organizers provide a structure for student thinking, not just a structure for lessons themselves. In this way, students are engaged in active learning, adding to the existing lecture and other potentially passive activities that are offered in the classroom.



Basic Literature Review


This is an interesting article on use of Advance Organizers (specifically, Structural Assessment in this case) to improve long-term retention of knowledge by, in this case, US Navy sailors. This is one of the few articles I found that found a measurable and significant difference between long-term retention of the information. Note that, in this case, long-term meant 12 weeks. While we are looking at 12 years (or more), it provides an idea of what to look for. Namely, give the students the structure upon which to place their learning, and they’ll understand and remember better.

Kraiger, Kurt and Cannon-Bowers, Janis A. Measuring knowledge organization as a method for assessing learning during training. Human Factors, Dec 1995 v37 n4 p804(9). [Electronic version]


Something to note from the following citation is the idea that, if presented early enough in the learning experience, Advance Organizers can significantly increase learning without adding significantly to time. This is an important idea, since time is the enemy, so to speak, in the modern classroom. Anything that can reduce the time to complete a task is appreciated.

Hatch, Clifton Almon, and Dwyer, Francis, Effect of varied advance organizer strategies in complementing visualized prose instruction. International Journal of Instructional Media, 00921815, 1999, Vol. 26, Issue 3. [Electronic version]



Lesson Outline

·               A lesson plan, workshop outline, training agenda or presentation that uses the graphic organizer; find your locus of control on this one, k-12 or professional training, this stratagey is versatile and fun


Deep Sea Creatures Poster:


This assignment calls for the students, who have been working on internet-based research in MS Word and doing simple web searches, to create a campaign poster for the “most unusual deep sea creature. In the interest of full disclosure, this is modified from an assignment by Teacher Created Materials.


1.   Show examples of campaign posters, providing students with ideas from both successful and unsuccessful campaigns. Point out the use of text and graphics, specifically the placement of pictures toward the center of the designs and the use of simple, short bulleted items to get a point across quickly.

2.   Introduce course material, including the basic design. Need to cover the following elements especially well:

a.   use of center, right and left justification (review of concepts already covered).

b.   importing graphics into MS Word (new concept).

3.   Review simple Internet searches.

4.   Discuss/Demonstrate/Practice downloading and saving internet-based images to their home directories.

5.   Copyright restrictions

6.   Introduce Teacher-Created Materials website (includes resource links)

7.   Introduce Teacher-Created Materials materials in the March directory

8.   Discuss/display Data Collection Grid (new material)

9.   Discuss/display Scoring Rubric

10.                 Students will then use the tools (specifically, Word and either Explorer or Navigator), with assistance where needed, to perform research on a deep sea creature.

11.                 Once students have decided on a deep-sea creature, they need to fill-out their Data Collection Grid, utilizing information from their research.

12.                 Using the information collected, including images, students are to create a single-page (letter size) campaign poster. Must have at least one picture and a heading listing, at some point, the name of their creature. All other design elements are up to them, and are at the student’s discretion. Name is NOT to be on this page (see next entry).

Final Activity: Students will post their posters and, in small groups (due to space constraints), vote on their favorite (numbered) poster. Since there are no names, these are relatively (though not completely) anonymous.



Graphic Organizer

I will be placing the Graphic Organizer at the following link: graphic_organizer.htm



Web Resources


This is a neat page on using Advance Organizers with ELD students, specifically newcomer students. Shows an easy way of using Advance Organizers in a language unit, while incorporating prior knowledge.


This is a general page on use of Advance Organizers. Nice part for me is that it provides a nice summary of the principles of Advance Organizers in use.


This site from Maryland provides a reason for using Advance Organizers in Social Studies classrooms. It emphasizes that:

1.   Lower-level (either grade or ability) students benefit more due to the thinking structure provided, and

2.   “The effectiveness of advance organizers is proportional to the level of unfamiliarity, difficulty, and technicality of the material to be learned. This provides teachers with a rule of thumb to follow in deciding when to invest the planning time needed to develop a good advance organizer to introduce a body of new information.”