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An advance organizer is a very useful tool for teachers to help students understand, retain and remember new learning material. In this lesson, we define an advance organizer and discuss examples and benefits of use in the classroom.

Advance Organizers

Analogies are commonly used as advance organizers
Advance Organizer Analogy

‘Information overload.

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‘ What comes to mind when you think of those words? Have you ever experienced information overload when studying for an exam or even just when sitting in class? Sometimes learning everything that’s required can be overwhelming and seem nearly impossible. Even if you are provided with all of the information, it can be hard to remember everything.This is a challenge that teachers face regularly. We must provide our students with large amounts of information in a way that helps them understand, retain and remember it.

There are a number of strategies that teachers use to do this, but the one we’ll discuss in this lesson is the use of advance organizers.An advance organizer is a tool used to introduce the lesson topic and illustrate the relationship between what the students are about to learn and the information they have already learned. They are used during expository instruction, which is the use of an expert to present information in a way that makes it easy for students to make connections from one concept to the next.By using an advance organizer to link the new information to old information, the new information can be remembered more easily.

There are three basic purposes of advance organizers. First, they direct students’ attention to what is important in the upcoming lesson. Second, they highlight relationships among ideas that will be presented. Third, they remind students of relevant information that they already have.


Venn diagrams help students make connections between information
Venn Diagram Example

An advance organizer is not a summary or review of a previous lesson. It also doesn’t provide a structure for the current lesson.

Instead, it provides a structure for student thinking. It acts as a conceptual bridge from the old information to the new information. A person’s existing knowledge about a concept is the most important factor in whether new material will be meaningful and how well it can be learned and retained.Analogies and metaphors are frequently used as advance organizers because they help students recognize that the topic they are beginning to learn is not totally new, but rather can be related to something they are already comfortable with.

This not only helps the students better understand the new concept, but it also helps to encourage and motivate students, as it makes them more confident about the material to come. They also help teachers fit the new information into a larger framework or existing schema. They help students understand the governing questions, issues and propositions that are reflected in that hierarchy.

If students understand the basic outline of the structure, they are able to fill in the gaps with new and related information as it is presented to them.For example, in one well-known study, two groups of students were asked to read an article that explained how radar works. The article read by the first group of students started with an advance organizer – an analogy comparing radar to a ball bouncing off a wall. The article read by the second group did not start with an advance organizer. The advance organizer group performed better than the other group on all assessments of learning. The advance organizer analogy acted as familiar prior knowledge that was then used to make sense out of the rest of the article.

Graphic Organizers

Visual advance organizers, known as graphic organizers, are commonly used to create a visual structure that can be filled in as new information is learned. For example, we could give this blank Venn diagram to a group of students before they watch a video about toads. The Venn diagram reminds them to think about what they already know about frogs and helps them organize the information as they make connections with what they learn about toads in today’s video. They can write down similarities and differences as they are exposed to new information.Another visual example is a KWL chart. It’s a type of advance organizer that requires the students to write down what they think they know and what they want to know before the instruction begins.

After the lesson, they complete the last column by listing what they’ve learned. A KWL chart helps to activate students’ prior knowledge so they feel more comfortable with the material. It also activates curiosity and helps retain attention. By keeping track of the information in this way, the learners reflect on what they’ve learned and if their questions were answered.

KWL charts help students stay focused and reflect on what they have learned
KWL Chart

Lesson Summary

An advance organizer helps teachers present information so that students will better understand and remember it. It can be defined as a tool used to introduce the lesson topic and illustrate the relationship between what the students are about to learn and the information they have already learned. Advance organizers are used to provide a structure for student thinking, acting as a conceptual bridge between information they already know and what they are about to learn. They are not used to summarize a previous lesson. Examples of advance organizers include analogies and metaphors, as well as graphic organizers, such as Venn diagrams and KWL charts.


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