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Teaching Strategies for Museums: Graphic Organizers

Photo, O Is For Overprint, May 1, 2009, cliff1066™, Flickr

In this four-and-a-half-minute video, 8th-grade teacher Amy Trenkle demonstrates the use of graphic organizers in museum visits. Through pre- and post-visit lessons, she prepares students for a visit to the Postal Museum in Washington, DC, and then prompts her students to summarize and contextualize the information they've collected.

This video provides examples of two promising practices:

  • Preparing students for museum visits by linking what they will see to what they are currently learning in the classroom and by familiarizing them with the organizer they will use to collect information; and
  • Directing students to focus on and collect specific information during museum visits, in order to synthesize answers to questions in a follow-up class.
What's Notable?

Trenkle demonstrates the careful preparation and follow-up required, if students are to take away lasting knowledge from a museum or historical site visit. Trenkle's familiarity with the Postal Museum's artifacts and with the information she wants her students to locate suggests that she visited the site prior to the field trip and decided how its resources related to her curriculum, what she wanted students to learn from the visit, and what she specifically wanted to direct students' attention to.

Using this information, she prepared a pre-visit lesson to relate the visit to what students were currently learning in class. The lesson posed questions on the development of transportation and introduced students to the graphic organizer they would use to gather information on-site in the next class.

Following the visit, she conducted a post-visit lesson, asking students to pull together the information they'd gathered in their organizers to answer the questions the pre-visit lesson had posed. The graphic organizers allowed the students to easily refer back to what they had learned in the museum, and to use the collected information to synthesize answers to Trenkle's questions.

Thoughts to Take Away

When planning field trips, remember that any historical site or museum can be used to answer a wide range of questions—if you want your students to bring away something specific from a site, you may need to direct and focus their attention with a tool like Trenkle's graphic organizer.

Viewing Instructions

To view this example, select the link in the "At a Glance" section to the left. After following the link, click on the video image in the center of the screen to launch the video.

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