Instructional Strategy #1: Advance Organizer

Advanced Organizers

Advance Organizers help students see the big picture of a content area at a high level of abstraction before honing in on specific content; it is an introduction, not a detailed summary of the following lesson. Advance organizers help students learn a large amount of material. Teachers prepare for advance organizers by considering the hierarchy of a subject that will serve as an ongoing framework from which students can organize their thinking including facts, figures, important details, and vocabulary. This helps students answer the major issues and propositions that are manifest in the conceptual hierarchy through a process of activating background knowledge and scaffolding student learning. Essentially, a framework is provided to help students understand what they’ll be learning. There are a number of different types of Advance Organizers such as expository, narrative, skimming, graphic; these different types will produce different results. There are technology-based advance organizers such as video clips and interactive multimedia; these lists are far from exhaustive.

Key Research Findings

  • According to Ausbel, a primary process in learning is subsumption in which new material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive structure which represent the residue of all learning experiences; forgetting occurs because certain details get integrated and lose their individual identity (Culatta, Richard, 2013).
  • McREL researchers calculated effect sizes for advance organizers at .74 (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012).
  • According to Ausbel as cited in Dean et al. (2012), graphic advance organizers must clearly communicate what students are expected to learn and will be assessed on.
  • Cartoons can be used successfully as advance organizers. Cartoons can effectively present complex change models at a high level of abstraction prior to the presentation of subsequent instructional materials (Cindy L. Kovalik & Williams, Matthew A., September 22, 2011).
  • Advance organizers utilizing video supports learner comprehension and retention while a multimedia approach also enhances English learners’ listening comprehension (Billings, Elsa S., & Mathison, Carla, 2011).
  •  Advance organizers are an important learning tool; the medium in which they are experienced is equally important (Billings, Elsa S., & Mathison, Carla, 2011).


  • Teachers should begin by creating a framework for the content area and information to be taught.
  • It is helpful to create a generalized, abstract question that frames the structure of the content area in general, and the topic to be explored in particular.
  • Small chunks of information are presented prior to engaging in daily lessons
  • Shouldn’t contain specific content of subsequent lessons
  • The goal is to generate understanding of the logical connections among the components of subsequent lessons.
  • Teach student how to use advance organizers as a means to organize their thinking, make connections and review for assessment.

Additional Resources




One thought on “Instructional Strategy #1: Advance Organizer

  1. Hi Kim,
    I love your quote on your About Me page. I think I’ll borrow it for inspiration:) You did a nice job of summarizing Advanced Organizers and I learned a new idea from you to use cartoons, though I have seen this done before, I didn’t think to do this as part of my own advanced organizer. Did you have a particular learning goal in mind to use as an example of an implementation for an AO?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s