An advance organiser is anything which helps a student to fit a new piece of knowledge into a wider context, making elaboration easier and increasing the chances of secure retention. They can come in many forms; at the simplest end it might just be a verbal reminder of what has been covered previously and how this relates to the current lesson (though note that this is NOT the same as copying down ‘lesson objectives’, which is not a useful technique). More complex advance organisers might be visual (often called ‘graphic organisers’), for example diagrams which can help to illustrate the relationship between different pieces of information (‘fishbone’ diagrams and ‘burger’ essay plans are good examples of this).
When used well, advance organisers have been found to be a very effective learning tool, but note that care must be taken that the organiser fits the information being learned. For example, just using a fishbone diagram will not be effective unless the information can be easily represented that way, with a central concept and then a number of strands emerging from it.
Suggestions for practice:
- Rather than lesson objectives, begin lessons with recaps or quizzes from previous lessons and then explain the new lesson’s focus in the context of this previous learning
- Download a book of graphic organisers, such as from here, and experiment with ones that you think might work well to represent some aspects of your curriculum.