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Higher-Order Questioning and Graphic Organizers


Graphic Organizers are strategic learning and management tools, but by themselves, Graphic Organizers can't work their magic.

What Graphic Organizers need to perform Olympic-Style instructional management duties and World-Class instructional delivery is a thinking teacher.

Using these tools, especially a library of reusable/ multi-use organizers, could trap students at the lower levels of thinking, in the same way that more time spent using a computer can limit students' thinking if the computer time is spent in drill and page turning.

Using Graphic Organizers with projects that engage Multiple Intelligences is a kangaroo-sized leap forward. But, that kangaroo is only a one-footed-hopper unless the teacher enhances instruction with higher-order questioning.

You can develop skills to improve your use of Higher-Order Questioning by using Graphic Organizers.

You basically need to train yourself to change your questioning habits, so that you stimulate students to think more and work less in the same class period.

What makes Graphic Organizer tools effective for developing habits is that the organizers can be kept visible and referred to instantly during the day. The key to habit change is in repeating behaviors (without stress)... focusing.. then relegating the desired behavior to the control of the unconscious mind.

Ben Franklin described his process for changing his habits in his Autobiography.

Basically, you form the habit of asking Higher-Order Questions by focusing on one kind of question each day until you master that habit.

Let's say that you map the kind of question to the working days of the week in a kind of Graphic Organizer, a chart..

For example..

DayQuestion Type
MondayComprehension
TuesdayApplication
WednesdayAnalysis
ThursdaySynthesis
FridayEvaluation

Examples of Higher-Order Thinking

If I ask you to tell me (list) all the kinds of Graphic Organizers there are, you engage one type of thinking. If I ask you to design a new Graphic Organizer that no one in the world has ever come up with, I set you up with a question that causes your mind to process in a different way.

An exercise for you, right now, is to decide what the biggest Graphic Organizer is in the world. Some might think of a Word Wall, others might think of a football field or baseball diamond and outfield. What about the runway lights on a large airport?

Once you have bigger and better examples of Graphic Organizers than these, then see if you can decide what the smallest Graphic Organizer might be. Possible candidates are the etching on a computer processing chip. Patterns for billions of transistors are etched by lasers into very small wafers of silicon.

Or consider this question. Is something that has a billion sectors (transistors) bigger than something like a football field that only has twelve sectors (yard lines and two end zones)?

Wait a minute, the football stadium has seating for 70,000 people...all marked off with section, aisle, and row numbers. Is the seating in a football stadium a giant Graphic Organizer?

Anyway, Higher-Order Thinking is more fun than squeezing your brain processes to leech out the last few items on a list.

Another interesting question might be, "How can you upgrade a common, run-of-the-mill, paltry paper worksheet to a revved-up, on-steroids, Graphic Organizer? Hint: the difference is in the thought you put into the paper's design, and the students' thoughts as they look at the paper, and as they interact with it?