Structural Organizers

Overview

        Structural organizers break down the writing process into steps. They help with brainstorming, organizing notes, and laying out the first draft. Many programs come with templates to help students start organizing their ideas.

        Students with a range of disabilities have been shown to benefit from explicit instruction of structural organization and pre-writing strategies (Bishop, Sawyer, Alber-Morgan, & Boggs, 2015). One experimental study found that mid-achieving students benefited from an assistive technology structural organizer (Kidspiration) over a paper-and-pencil method (Lorenz, Green, & Brown, 2009), but overall it seems that regardless of the strategy (paper-and-pencil or assistive technology) students benefit from structural organizer and pre-writing strategy instruction, especially when it comes to written composition organization (Flanagan & Bouck, 2015). Structural organizers may be more effective than graphic organizers for students with visual processing deficits.

        It should be noted that though structural organizers can be done without the aid of computer-based technology, graphic organizing and outline software makes it is easier to manipulate and develop ideas. In addition, other assistive technology can be integrated with it (i.e. word prediction to aid in spelling).

Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.

Advantages:

  • Most students spend very little time planning and/or at the prewriting stage, and this can be encouraged by structural organizers

  • Research shows that when students use pre-writing strategies the quality of their writing improves (Flanagan & Bouck, 2015)

Disadvantages:

  • Using structural and graphic organizers requires comprehensive instruction

To Consider

  • Consider whether or not a computer-based structural organizer is necessary for the student, or whether a paper-based tool may be just as useful

  • Providing a structural organization (whether paper-based or assistive technology), will only improve writing if students are properly instructed

Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed. 

$ - Under $5

$$ - Between $6 and $50

$$$ - Between $51 and $250

$$$$ - Over $250

References

 

Bishop, A. E., Sawyer, M., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & Boggs, M. (2015). Effects of a graphic organizer training package on the persuasive writing of middle school students with autism. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50, 290-302.

 

Flanagan, S. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2015). Mapping out the details: Supporting struggling writers’ written expression with concept mapping. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 59, 244-252.

 

Lorenz, B., Green, T., & Brown, A. (2009). Using multimedia graphic organizer software in the prewriting activities of primary school students: What are the benefits?. Computers in the Schools, 26, 115–129.

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Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision March 2017

Academic Intervention Lab

Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, ON M5S 1V6, Canada
     Email: academicinterventionlab@utoronto.ca

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