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Hello and welcome to my blog. It is here that I will be working through various discussion topics related to technology, learning, and most importantly the creation of meaningful and relevant student instruction. I openly welcome your comments, and hope that my insights and presented information works to inspire and assist fellow educators in the effective integration of technology.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cues, and Questions, and Advance Organizers...Oh my!

In taking a cue from the Wizard of Oz the use of instructional strategies such as cues, questions, and advance organizers (as opposed to lions, and tigers, and bears) as well as effective summarizing and note taking helps students more clearly recognize information connections and works to assist students in becoming information ‘wizards’.  In looking closely at the essential purpose of these instructional strategies in relation to classroom usage they are to provide mechanisms which assist students in organizing and storing information in long-term memory so that it can be accessed later to effectively solve problems.  As Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski (2007) highlight in their research on strategies which help students acquire and integrate learning, instruction which “focuses on enhancing students’ abilities to synthesize information” (p.119) allows students to analyse and organize information in a manner that is personally meaningful.  Now in identifying a correlation between these identified instructional strategies and cognitive learning theory this element of meaningfulness is important because it speaks to a critical factor in promoting long-term memory and the retrieval of information.  Cognitive learning theory centers on the premise that meaningful information is stored in a structured fashion within short-term and long-term memory, and that information is accessible through the development of learning connections established through active interaction.  Meaning, in simplified terms, the more connections that are developed the more likely it is that the information will be stored and then retrieved when needed.  It is in identifying this need for purposeful interaction with information and the development of learning connections that the incorporated use of effectual instructional strategies, such as cues, questions, and advance organizers as well as efficient summarizing and note taking, correlates directly with the tenets of cognitive learning theory.

Now simply possessing subject knowledge will not help students learn and retain new information unless they are able to connect to this information and effectively apply it when needed.  By using instructional strategies such as those noted teachers can effectively activate background knowledge and help their students focus on what they will be learning, and in doing so influence what students will learn by assisting them in generating connections between the information they already know and the information they will need to know.   An example of this is in the use of advance organizers which makes learning more meaningful to students by effectively helping them learn new material by relating it to personal experiences and prior content knowledge in a visual format.  This visual format appeals to students in that they are able to get creative and express their thoughts in a manner which makes sense to them.  In terms of effectiveness the use of advance organizers within instruction efficiently addresses multiple learning modalities which as Orey highlights allows information to be internalized within multiple learning networks thereby increasing the probability of long term memory and the likelihood of information being recalled when needed (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  Through their actions students are able to pinpoint their efforts and develop further information links which may assist them in remembering information. In using advance organizers such as concept mapping programs like Kidspiration students are motivated and given an enjoyable method to collaboratively brainstorm and recognize new ideas whilst developing their maps. Concept mapping affords students the opportunity to evaluate information and communicate their thoughts more efficiently thereby allowing them to enhance their knowledge of the initial topic.  Likewise having the ability to take meaningful notes and summarize information in an effective manner allows students to structure and understand content information easier, this again speaks to the need for purposeful interaction.  As Pitler et al. (2007) observe, an effective method for note taking is one which incorporates “outlining, webbing, and pictographs in addition to words” (p.124).  In generating these useful notes students are able to take information and synthesize it into a form that is easier to process using their own words.  Being able to effectively synthesize and elaborate on information helps students build those much sought after cognitive learning connections and allows them to integrate new knowledge that much easier.

In identifying the benefits associated with using cognitive instructional strategies to enhance student learning they are countless. Through their effectual use student creativity is encouraged, comprehension is increased, and most importantly the degree of engagement is raised as learning becomes more meaningful to students. In utilizing instructional strategies such as cues, questions, and advance organizers as well as efficient summarizing and note taking teachers are able to assist learners who may have a wealth of information related to a topic but may need help in recognizing how everything is connected.  In actively working to draw on background knowledge and allowing students to personally represent information in a manner that is meaningful students are able to evaluate and organize information in the interest of reaffirming learning connections.  Clearly these strategies encourage students to be active in the learning process and build upon the cognitive goal of providing meaningful opportunities to interact with information so as to encourage retention, i.e. learning.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program five: Cognitive learning theories. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6289937&Survey=1&47=8834938&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works.Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Thank you for your post.

    I teach a different subject than you do, mathematics. Cues, questions, graphic organizers and other tools are not used very often in math textbooks or by teachers. Worked examples are usually shown and a word problem or two for real world examples and that is it.

    As a teacher we can have the students set up several graphic organizers. Flow charts are very nice for math problems. Also comparison bubble charts or we use KIM charts. KIM charts stand for knowledge, information, and memory.
    The students create their own tools for memory whether it be a nmemonic or something funny to help them remember.

    It is not enought to present the material, we have to get them a way to remember it.

    Thank you
    Scott Parks

  2. Trevor says...

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you for your comments, it is always nice to hear the view points of teachers coming from other subject areas as they may or may not approach instruction in the same way. From the sounds of it you are a trailblazer amongst the math teachers in that you are using cognitive strategies to enhance your students' learning. You make mention of flow charts and that was my first thought in terms of graphic organizers which I remember from my days in a math classroom. Helping students physically see the progression of a problem's calculation with a flow chart can help them in linking/organizing information and potentially (hopefully)committing it to long term memory for recall when needed.

    Additionally your comments on KIM charts sound very similar to the widely used KLM charts which allow students to see not only learning objectives but also charts their level of existing background knowledge, and ultimately their newly acquired information as well. In using these types of organizers with students you are helping your students in generating the multiple learning networks which Orey stressed as being vital to students generating meaningful understanding due to students being able to due on their own experiences and knowledge to help in completing the task, i.e. filling out the chart(Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).

    Good luck with your continued use of organizers with your students they do indeed work to reinforce instruction and allow students to 'link' to what you are teaching.

    Trevor Henderson


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program five: Cognitive learning theories. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6289937&Survey=1&47=8834938&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.

  3. Hi Trevor and Scott,

    I am so excited that I can receive different ideas from you both about the use of flow charts, KIM and KLM charts. These charts can help students generate meaningful understanding because as they are able to arrange and organize their thoughts, they will be able to adequately and progressively process the information and recall when needed.

    I teach mathematics as well, and sometimes I have needed to use cues and questions to guide and lead learners. For example, during my lesson with the third graders this week, in handling the topic of multiplication with hundreds; I asked questions like how do you multiply with 10s, by putting a zero at the back of the number. Like 22 x 10 = 220. That is multiplying with a ten. Then, what will you do with a hundred? They all said just put two zeros, that is 22 x 100 = 2200. We were able to build on this knowledge. I think we can as well use cues and questions in mathematics since "Cues are explicit reminders or hints about what students are about to experience" and "questions perform the same function as ques by triggering students' memories and helping them to access prior knowledge" (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 73).


    Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. (p. 73). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

  4. Trevor says...

    Hi Damilola,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I agree with your assertion that cues and questioning are effective strategies for assisting students in creating meaning during instruction. If used effectively both strategies, cues and questioning, are efficient tools for tapping into students' background knowledge and getting them actively thinking. Additionally when viewed from a constructivist angle wherein the teacher functions more as a facilitator who coaches, mediates, prompts, and helps students develop and assess their understanding, and thereby their learning, one of the teacher's biggest jobs becomes asking effective questions. In utilizing effective questioning you as the teacher are able to assist your students in opening 'hidden doors'and linking their existing knowledge with knowledge they have yet to discover.

    Trevor Hendersoon