Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.

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Using Graphic Organizers to Review

Bil Johnson
Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.


In our final round of preparation, as we review, I’ve mentioned a number of times one of my favorite things are graphic organizers. What we’re going to look at here is a series of graphic organizers that I think are particularly useful for applying your knowledge. Particularly your content knowledge, in an organized fashion that will really prepare you when you’re ready for the test.
When we get to reviewing US History it can be a little daunting, because you might say there is so much content, how am I going to do this? That’s where I think these graphic organizers are really, really helpful. They’re really a way to help you kind of pair down and organize the knowledge. G-GREASES is an acronym for a system of organizing what you know. And it’s Geography, Government, Religion, Economics, And then there is Arts and Architecture, Science Technology. Education would be the other E and Social and Cultural Knowledge. We've paired it down here, just because you never would use all of them. But it might be something that you want to take a look at.

If I go back to the beginning of my American History Course, and I start to look at colonialism and federalism, those two periods of time, I might say, did Geography have an effect in colonialism? Well yeah, in fact it probably did. So I may just want to make a quick note there, that I’m going to go back and fill in some information. During the federalist period, did it really have an effect? I think it’s actually pretty similar to there, so I might do that.

Government is a big thing because I would kind of make a note about self-governing colonies, which is pretty important.

And then here of course, you’ve got the constitution. And now you start to see some cause and effect connections in your history, which is really nice. Religion, we could talk about it, in terms of the colonies that started for religious freedom, like the original Massachusetts, the Plymouth colony, and the Pennsylvania colony. And then with federalism, we might say there is the 1st amendment which guarantees freedom of religion.

You work your way through this, again brainstorming, but also creating these categories, these historical eras. And you combine it with this idea of the G-GREASES organizer, and all of a sudden, I think you’ll start to recognize, I really know a lot of American History. Once I break it into some understandable categories, and I start to synthesize my knowledge based on Historical eras. So it’s a very convenient way to take all of that history, and break it down in a way that’s understandable, and reinforces your knowledge. And really helps you review it in a very effective way.

Another way to approach your review, might be to look at Historical Eras. Now I mentioned that when I did the G-GREASES review. And there will be overlapping and that’s pretty intentional because the more overlap, the more reinforcement you’ll get in your review. When I talk about historical eras, I’m talking about things like the colonial period, the federalist period, Jeffersonian Democracy, the Era of good feelings as it’s sometimes called. You may have other title or labels. But basically it’s looking for a chunk of History that we can handle.

You see this says president up here, because when we start to especially move into these areas, we can see some overlap with specific presidents. Now not always, because God knows we’ve had some presidents who didn’t do a lot, but that doesn’t mean the era didn’t happen. So we want to take a look at that historical era.

In this case, what I think we want to look at when we look at the eras, is domestic issues. What was going on within the country, and then what were the foreign policy issues? And then is there a significance? Is there a connection or does one outweigh the other? What do we need to be paying attention to? And once again, starting to fill this in.

So with the colonial period, when we start to look at domestic issues, one of the things might be the whole taxation issue with Great Britain, after the French and Indian War. And we know that that leads to a foreign policy issue, which of course is the revolution. But it might also mean something like the French Alliance. So the significance of that obviously is the independence of the United States.

Those are broad issues. But now I know as I look at this simple organizer, tax, well which taxes were the intolerable tax, the stamp tax and why. And I think about my cause and effect. So organizing this way, even if it’s just your quick notes of brainstorming and thinking about it, can really start to trigger all of that knowledge you have.

When I get down to the federalist era, what I think about personally is, Hamilton and his economic program. In foreign policy issues, we’ve got Jay’s Treaty for example, and Washington’s farewell address. The significance here is really showing the strength of the United States as a new nation. Again, this might trigger other things. When I talk about Hamilton’s financial program, I may talk about him assuming the debts of the state or whatever. So as you fill in a graphic organizer like this, and you see I’m doing this pretty quickly, you might want to take a little more time.

But even if you do it this quickly, it starts to trigger all of this stuff you know, and all of these cause and effect connections, and all these historical era connections as well as getting you to think in an organized fashion. So when you get to a DBQ or a free response essay, you’ll have all this information at your command, as well as having it for the multiple choice test.

So these graphic organizers, whether it’s based on historical eras or you’re using the G-Greases, and then you decide the domestic and foreign policy, or cause and effect. But thinking in terms of graphic organizers, and then filling in the information, is going to prepare you not just for the free response essays, but also for the DBQ. And it will really get your knowledge going for the multiple choice test too. So they really serve multiple purposes and give you a convenient way to synthesize all your knowledge about American History.

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