Think Clearer: Use Your Pen

Editors Features October / October 17, 2018

-Terra Graves-

I could venture a guess that most K-12 teachers do not make it a habit of reading research papers on a regular basis. Unless you are enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program, you really don’t have the time or the energy to do so. Quite frankly, most of them leave me with a feeling of, “So what?” Most research published seems intended to inform others about what someone else has done with his students and what he discovered in the process. That’s great, but what am I supposed to do with this information?  

Jon Bergmann shares The Top 10 Must-Read Research Papers about FL in each issue of the Flipped Learning Review. For novice and expert FL practitioners, Jon’s synopsis is incredibly valuable because it points us to research that supports the efficacy of our practice and proves that FL is a worldwide educational movement.

However, the power in research is the practical application of its findings. If we learn about something that another FL practitioner has found to improve student learning, shouldn’t we try it with our students?

Putting Research into Action

The task I have undertaken in this serial column is to look at The Top 10 from past issues of FLR and come up with practical applications for the K-12 classroom.  

The Research

This month, the research piece I will focus on comes from the May issue. I encourage you to skim through to get a general sense of the study.

A study by Aini Vitanofa & Khoirul Anwar in the Journal of English Teaching, Literature, and Applied Linguistics looked at whether adding graphic organizers to a flipped course helped students learn better. They concluded that there is a significant difference between the students who are taught by flipped learning through graphic organizers and students who are taught without flipped learning through graphic organizers.

Using Graphic Organizers for Writing

Graphic organizers are the ultimate tool for thinking and learning. They help us to diagram our thoughts and information in such a way that we can “free up” space in our brain to allow creativity and deeper thinking to flourish. In this article Teach Hub, Dr. Katherine McKnight writes, “We know from learning theory that the human mind naturally organizes and stores information. Our minds create structures to store newly acquired information and connect it to previous knowledge. The graphic organizers are visualizations of these mental storage systems and serve to support students in remembering and connecting information. When students can remember and assimilate information, they can delve into more critical thinking.” 

For many learners, including adults, some tasks are better done when pen meets paper. Personally, I use a laptop for about 95% of the work I do. Writing with a pen makes my hand hurt now. I also find it to be inefficient if something is not done digitally because then I have to keep track of the paper. However, when I need to think in terms of “big picture,” like when I am planning a new course, it is better to draw it out on paper. 

Research continues to support the fact that the act of writing with pen and paper makes connections to the brain that typing does not. 

Circling back to the research article, you can see the use of graphic organizers to support writing skills, applied in the typical FL model. Students learned about grammar and sketched out their ideas for their writing on a graphic organizer in the individual space. The prime benefit of FL is that it creates time in the classroom for active learning and critically important opportunities to reach every student every day. As a former middle-school English teacher, I understand there is never enough time during class to allow for the writing process to be fully implemented. What usually suffers is being able to meet with students one-on-one to discuss their writing, give feedback, and allow them to revise. Had FL been around when I was in the classroom, I would have been a more effective teacher, and my students would have learned so much more! But I digress. Next, let’s explore how graphic organizers can be an added thinking-support in your FL classroom.

The Action

Use graphic organizers in your Flipped Learning assignments.

While this research was specific to writing, graphic organizers are extremely useful in other content areas as well. They are helpful for documenting the thinking process, prompting deeper thinking, and creating structures for seeing the connectedness of concepts. In the FL environment, graphic organizers can be used both in the individual space and the group space. In the individual space, students can complete a graphic organizer as a system for guided notetaking while consuming the lesson, or as a formative assessment following the lesson. In the group space, graphic organizers can be used as group activities, which reinforce concepts from the individual space lesson. Students can bring their completed graphic organizers to the group space and springboard into deeper thinking activities with the teacher nearby for support and feedback. The possibilities are endless.

The Resources

Here are some amazing resources for different types of graphic organizers. Some free and some paid. Some pen/paper and some digital. Enjoy!

I hope that the “So what?” you might be feeling after reading research studies becomes a “Now what?” feeling after reading this column and that innovative research becomes a call to action. And when that call to action is heard, I’m sure there is a graphic organizer that will help you think through your next steps!

Terra Graves
Terra Graves
Terra has been an educator for over twenty years. She is the Project Coordinator/Administrator for the 21st Century Learning Department in Washoe County School District, NV. Prior to this position, she taught elementary and middle school, supported novice teachers as a full-time mentor, served as an Ed Tech Specialist, and a Program Specialist in the 21st Century Learning Department. Terra is Flipped Learning 3.0 Level-II Certified and a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty.

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