EDU 6526: Practical Uses of Advance Organizers

Advance organizers are an excellent tool for preparing students to learn new information. According to Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2012) “advance organizers are stories, pictures, and other introductory materials that set the stage for learning“ (p.51). Most agree that people learn better if new information is organized in some logical way before diving straight into the material. Starting with the big concepts or ideas first can help frame the lesson for the student so they are not overwhelmed by all the details in the beginning. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe these two processes as progressive differentiation and integrative reconciliation. General ideas are presented first, gradually becoming more detailed and specific. Toward the end of the lesson, students integrate the new information with what was previously learned. “Advance organizers strengthen cognitive structures and enhance retention of new information” (Joyce et. al., 2015, p. 204).

Advance Organizer Model

Advance Organizer Model

There are four types of advance organizers according to Dean et. al. (2012): expository, narrative, skimming, and graphic. As I was reading about these different types of advance organizers, I noticed that I typically use the skimming advance organizer before reading without even thinking about it. I like to have a basic idea of what the chapter will be about and what I’m about to learn. Looking at the headings and subheadings and glancing at the graphics or visual examples helps me frame the information so that I can more easily learn it and fit it in with what I already know. I could see myself instructing my future students to briefly skim over a chapter about photosynthesis so they have a general idea about it before reading the entire chapter.

Narrative advance organizers are also a great tool to use to relate the information to everyday life. For example, students may not immediately see how calculating averages is important, but if you relate it to baseball, suddenly the students may be interested. Batting average is a mathematical calculation that indicates how often a batter hits the baseball and gets on base. Over time students will realize that a batting average over .300 is considered very good. That means that the batter gets on base 30% of the time. Telling a story about a practical example ahead of the lesson can grab the student’s interest and show them how to relate the information to real life situations.

I also like graphic advance organizers because I’m a visual learner. I like using charts to organize information or ideas. A specific chart I’ve heard a lot about is a KWL chart. This seems especially useful for teaching younger students as a way to prepare them to learn new material. They state what they already know and access prior knowledge. This helps bring their existing long term memory into their working memory so that it is readily accessed. This way they can retrieve it more efficiently and link it to the new information. Then they state what they want to know or what questions they have about the new material. The teacher can incorporate what the students are interested in in order to make the instruction more enjoyable for the student. In turn they will be more motivated to learn. Finally the students write down what they actually learned by reorganizing what they used to know with what they recently learned.

KWL Chart

KWL Chart

As David Ausubel (1978) stated, “Of all the possible conditions of learning that affect cognitive structure, it is self-evident that none can be more significant [than] organization of the material.” I plan to incorporate the use of advance organizers in my future classrooms so that my students have a better idea of what each lesson will be about and to help maximize their learning.


Ausubel, D., et. al. (1978). “Instructional Materials,” from Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View. New York, 1978.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


EDSP 6648: FBAs and Their Importance

The Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is used to collect information about problem behavior in order to understand why that problem behavior is occurring. Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, and Shriner (2013) describe four types of information that are identified in an FBA:

  1. Description of the problem behavior and daily routines
  2. Consequences maintaining the problem behavior
  3. Antecedent events that trigger problem behavior
  4. Setting events that increase the likelihood of problem behavior

An FBA is the first step in identifying the cause(s) of the behavior and hypothesizing about possible solutions. This knowledge is critical for the teacher because it can help them understand why the student is acting out and brainstorm possible ways to intervene.

In the first step of the FBA, being specific about the behavior is important. Saying that the student is “aggressive” or “frustrated” doesn’t describe exactly what is happening. The description of the behavior has to be specific and observable (i.e., not an emotion). For example, “Timmy throws his book on the floor when asked to read aloud.”

The second step is figuring out what is maintaining the behavior. “The FBA is driven by determining the function of the behavior” (Yell et. al., 2013). What is the student gaining by behaving the way they are? Are they craving attention, avoiding something, or is the root of the problem that they have a skill or performance deficit? What are the consequences of the students’ action?

Thirdly, it is important to determine what directly precedes the behavior. This could be the teacher asking the student a question or it could be teasing from a classmate.

Lastly, knowing the setting events that increase the likelihood of the problem behavior are helpful to know. These could be biological (fatigue, hunger), environmental (noise, seating distractions), or situational (routine changes, personnel changes) (Yell et. al., 2013).

An FBA can start with an interview of parents, teachers, and psychiatrists or counselors. Completing behavior check lists or rating scales can be very informative as well. Looking at medical records or other school reports can create a clearer picture of what the student is going through. Based on the interviews and data acquired so far, direct observation can solidify what was hypothesized about the problem behavior. Yell et. al. (2013) describe two types of direct observation methods: scatter plot assessment (SPA) and ABC observation. Having specific data about the time of day the behavior is most likely to occur is useful.

With this information in mind, we can better predict what exactly is causing the student to act out. The end result of the FBA is to create suggestions for the behavior intervention plan (BIP) that the student, parents, and educators follow.

I think it is critically important to watch out for students who do exhibit problematic behavior on a regular basis and to a marked degree. The main goal of an FBA should be to help improve the student’s skills and stop the bad behavior by replacing it with a more ideal and socially accepted behavior. As a future teacher, I hope to be able to react in an appropriate manner to all types of behavior. Yell et. al. (2013) assert that most teachers still tend to use punishment as the first line of defense when dealing with problem behavior. It can certainly be easy for a stressed and frustrated teacher to simply yell at the student causing the classroom disruption, but that is certainly not an ideal way to handle such events.

It will be a challenge to learn to control my own emotions and model good behavior for my future students so they in turn learn how to handle conflict appropriately. The FBA can not only be used for students with EBD, but it can also be used informally by the teacher for the general student population. Simply having a better idea about student behavior and the causes can be very helpful for dealing with any kind of student behavior, no matter how trivial. Changing my behavior and how I intervene, reinforce, or punish certain behaviors seems critical to maintaining an efficient and productive classroom conducive to learning for all.

Reference: Yell, M. L., Meadows, N. B., Drasgow, E., & Shriner, J. G. (2013). Evidence-based practices for educating students with emotional and behavioral disorders (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

EDU 6526: Concepts, Memorization, Mnemonics

Teaching concepts is central to any instructional setting at any age. How exactly does a student learn? And what is the best way to teach concepts and facts? These are surprisingly complex questions that I’m still trying to figure out answers to. Every student learns differently. Some work well alone and others work well together. Some are good at rote memorization and others need more of a visual link to help them remember things.

For my future upper elementary classroom, I believe in teaching basic concepts or ideas that will help the student learn to learn. According to Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015), “Awareness of how to learn and how to improve learning results in a sense of mastery and control over one’s future.” I feel like elementary school is a critical age for students to learn how best to learn. I like the idea of students analyzing concepts on their own first and coming to their own conclusions and instead of the teacher providing all the answers. If students are only memorizing information, they are not actually learning it or understanding how to transfer the knowledge to other subjects or real life situations. According to Bruner (1966), if children only use the information they memorized in that particular situation, they aren’t very likely to transfer that knowledge to other parts of their lives.

Joyce et al. (2015) explain how to use the concept attainment model in order to teach students how to categorize information or data and form conclusions. For example, I feel it is important that students learn about the natural habitat that surrounds them. Using the concept attainment model, I could provide data on the environment of the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest. Then I could have the students compare and contrast different attributes such as average number of sunny days in a year, average inches of rainfall, number of species, and how many population centers are in the area and how large they are. From there, I would have the students draw their own conclusions about ways we can better maintain a good balance between using and replenishing the Earth’s resources. After the lesson I would have the students think about how they came to those conclusions and if there were other things they might consider besides the data points I gave them.

That isn’t to say that memorization isn’t important to learn as well. Mnemonics can be very helpful when trying to memorize facts. One example I immediately thought about was “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to signify the order of mathematical operations in an equation. It of course stands for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and finally subtraction. Even years after first learning it, I still remember it and use it from time to time. Another good mnemonic example is to remember how many days are in each month by counting the months on your knuckles.

Another example of ways to help children remember facts is to use link words and pictures to help students associate two ideas so that one triggers the other. See the image below as an example.

Substitute link words and graphics to introduce students to names of European countries.

Substitute link words and graphics to introduce students to names of European countries.

Teaching students to apply the memory model themselves is critical to their success on their own (Joyce et al., 2015). Bruner (1996) said, “All one can do for a learner en route to her forming a view of her own is to aid and abet her on her own voyage.” I hope to teach my students these valuable thinking and memory strategies so they will be successful throughout their lives and always learning.


Bruner, Jerome S. The Culture of Education. 1996.

Bruner, Jerome S. Some Elements of Discovery. 1961.

Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Mnemonic. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 23, 2016, from

EDU 6526: Questioning as a Teaching Method

We used to complete a lot of worksheets when I was a student in elementary school. I also remember my teacher lecturing and using direct instruction for a significant portion of the school day. According to Dr. Scheuerman, worksheets are still widely used in classrooms today. In fact when I volunteered for a 3rd grade classroom a few years ago, the teacher had me make hundreds of copies of math worksheets for the students to complete as homework throughout the year. While worksheets and direct instruction can be useful, I would hesitate to use them more than other methods of teaching, such as questioning as part of an inquiry-based approach.

I was one of those students who wanted to have the correct answer every time. I wasn’t comfortable with any ambiguity in the answers. I still struggle with this way of thinking, but my goal as a future teacher will be to ask more questions and leave things up to the students to interpret and think about on their own. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) discuss several models for teaching students to be inquiry-based learners. The Biological Science Inquiry Model (BSIM), the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM), and the Synetics model all incorporate questioning as a teaching tool to get the students to think, analyze, and be creative writers (Joyce et al., 2015).

BSIM is typically used when teaching a science lesson, however it can be used to teach other subjects as well. BSIM can change the way students process information, encourage them to be open-minded, and also can help them think about alternative answers for why things happen (Joyce et al., 2015). Asking questions such as, “what factors were different in these two environments?” or “what could have caused this population to die out?” can help the students consider their prior knowledge and build on it through experiments. Instead of giving the students the end result or knowledge, leading them to discover the information for themselves will be much more impactful.

PWIM starts with a picture for students to observe and come up with words to describe what they see. With PWIM, the teacher can ask obvious questions such as “what do you see?” or “how exactly did you make that word plural?” and the students will learn to use their imagination and phonics skills to arrive at some answers. This is another example of the teacher questioning the students to consider and analyze words instead of giving them the answers directly. This in turn helps to build their awareness of words, their forms, and ways to incorporate them in their own writing.

Ask questions about what the student sees in the picture.

Ask questions about what the student sees in the picture.

Finally the Synetics Model makes use of analogies to help the students cultivate creativity, see multiple perspectives, and develop empathy for others. Questioning is heavily used in this model. For example, asking the students “how is a teacher like a computer?” can help them understand metaphors, analogies, and comparisons more fully. Building on this, they can make personal analogies as a way to “transport oneself into another space or object” (Joyce et al., 2015, p.158). Asking the students to imagine themselves as a car engine in the morning and to describe how they feel when they first wake up or get started can help them see something from a different perspective and gain conceptual distance (Joyce et al., 2015). The following image describes in detail the different levels of personal analogies that teachers can look for.

Ask students questions like "How would I feel if I were a car?"

Ask students questions like “How would I feel if I were a car?”

Being able to successfully ask questions and guide the students to their own discovery is a critical skill to acquire as a new teacher. I hope my future students can be more creative thinkers than I was as a student.

Reference: Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

EDSP 6648: Defining EBD

The term emotional and behavioral disorder (EBD) is difficult to define because everyone has a different idea of what it means. Before this class, I did not realize that EBD existed. I would have simply referred to the disorder as anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or some other diagnosed condition. Do all students that act out in school have a EBD? Probably not, but now I realize that EBD is more complex than that. How do you know when emotional and behavioral problems constitute a disorder?

Even lawmakers have trouble coming up with a good definition of EBD (Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, & Shriner, 2013). In order for a student to receive EBD special education services, they must meet the federal definition for EBD. However the federal definition is vague and ambiguous when it comes to what a “marked degree” is and how long “a long period of time” is. Every person is different and people with EBD are no exception.

I define EBD as someone that has either an emotional or behavioral problem that causes them to have inappropriate actions or thoughts that adversely affect their ability to learn, work, or form meaningful relationships with others. These actions or thoughts happen repeatedly and over the course of several months. This would not include people with depression who have just lost a family member or someone important to them for example, unless it continues for several months and it negatively affects their learning or work. But even that definition is still lacking. The federal definition says EBD does not include people who are “socially maladjusted,” such as people who participate in gang activities. However, I feel like these people need just as much help as someone who has an anxiety disorder.

In any case, I believe many of the conceptual models and risk factors can help us better define EBD. Yell et al. (2013) describe several models including the psychodynamic, psychoeducational, ecological, humanistic, biophysical, behavioral, and cognitive models. I know it can probably be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the EBD, but I think many times it is multiple factors working together. For example, the ecological model states that the poor behavior could be a result of an adverse environment. Risk factors for such an environment could include family risk factors such as having parents in legal trouble, neglect or abuse, or even rejection by family (Yell et. al., 2013).

Behavior problems could be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or genetics, which describes the biophysical model. And yet another belief is that behavior stems from social contexts and cause and effect treatment or punishment. All of these different models and risk factors influence my description of EBD. It will be my job as a future elementary teacher to watch out for children who have either been diagnosed with EBD or show signs of having a potential problem.

Reference: Yell, M. L., Meadows, N. B., Drasgow, E., & Shriner, J. G. (2013). Evidence-based practices for educating students with emotional and behavioral disorders (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.