Posts Tagged ‘Non-linguistic representation’

Non-linguistic Representations to Create Meaning

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

To back up slightly, last week’s blog posting shared that knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic form (as language) and nonlinguistic form (as mental images and physical sensations). The more that we can teach our students to use both types of representations, the better they are able to reflect on and recall knowledge. When we branch out from linguistic form and ask our students to use nonlinguistic representation as well, the effects on student achievement are significant (Pitler, 2007).

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) makes the following five recommendations for classroom practice using nonlinguistic representation:

  1. Use graphic organizers to represent knowledge.
  2. Have students create physical models of the knowledge.
  3. Have students generate mental pictures of the knowledge they are learning.
  4. Use pictures or pictographs to represent knowledge.
  5. Have students engage in kinesthetic activities representing the knowledge.

According to Marzano’s original meta-analysis (1998), using graphic representations had one of the highest impacts on student achievement, with an average effect size of 1.24, the equivalent of a gain of as many as 39 percentile points. As you begin a unit or a lesson, provide your students with a matrix or another graphic way to organize the information they are about to encounter.  Students’ attempts to complete the structure as a pre-learning activity can prime their brains and create anticipation. The following anticipation guide is an example of how we can help to structure students’ initial thinking about All Quiet on the Western Front before they begin the novel.

Themes in the Book My Opinion My Group’s Opinion The Author’s Opinion Additional Comments
Nature is indifferent to mankind’s pain and decisions.
“To no man does the earth mean so much as the soldier.”
Cruel trainers make the most useful trainers for soldiers about to go to war.
War forces people to reject the traditional values and civilized behavior.
“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure.”
“Every soldier believes in Chance.”
Friendships endure all.

Similarly, the row headings in the analysis matrix below show students what to look for as they read an article on the components of blood—and the cell contents show how one student might complete it after having read the assigned material.

Questions to Ask Red Cells White Cells Plasma Platelets
Size and Shape?
Where Formed?

Analysis matrices are also great for helping students to develop patterns of understanding. The completed matrix below is designed to help students apply the pronouns. The fill-in-the-blank organizer at the bottom is designed to help students apply the understanding that subjunctive pronouns always perform the action of the verb, and the objective pronouns always receive the action of the verb.

Analysis Matrix and Application:  Personal Pronouns
Personal Pronouns Subjunctive Objective Possessive Reflexive
Singular 1st I Me MyMine Myself
2nd You You Your(s) Yourself
3rd HeSheIt HimHerIt HisHersIts HimselfHerselfItself
Plural 1st We Us Our(s) Ourselves
2nd You You Your(s) Yourselves
3rd They Them Their(s) Themselves
1st person singular: __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.2nd person singular: __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.3rd person singular (masculine): __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.






As you may remember, during our staff development last year, Heather Mullins and Donna Murray shared many examples of multi-purpose graphic organizers.  This might be a good time to revisit some of the strategies from last year’s training or to contact Heather or Donna for a refresher.

You may want to check out Donna’s delicious links for graphic organizers.  She has tagged 38 different sites that provide a variety of organizers for classroom use.

Summarization-Lingusitic and Non-linguistic

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Summarization Pyramids

A summarization pyramid is a versatile tool that comes in many formats, has many sizes, and can be used with many prompts. It’s easy to adapt the basic foundation of this technique to your curriculum and your students’ needs.

Basic Sequence

Construct a pyramid of lines on a sheet of paper. When first playing with this format, begin with eight lines, as shown below.

Summarization Pyramid













For each line, choose prompts that yield one-word or short answers for the shorter lines and longer responses for longer lines. If you have a large pyramid and a prompt that requires a lengthy response, consider asking students to use more than one line of the pyramid for their response. Consider these prompts and add your own as you experiment with this strategy:

• A synonym for the topic
• An analogy between the topic and a sport
• One question the topic sparks in you
• Three attributes or facts about the topic
• Three words that best describe the topic
• A news headline that would capture the essence of the topic
• One or two other topics related to this topic
• Causes of the topic
• Effects of the topic
• Reasons we study the topic
• Arguments for the topic
• Ingredients of the topic
• Personal opinion of the topic
• Demonstration of the topic in action
• The larger category from this topic comes
• A formula or sequence associated with this topic
• Insight gained from studying the topic
• Tools for using the topic
• Three moments in the history of the topic
• One thing that we used to think about the topic that we’ve discovered to be incorrect
• Samples of the topic
• People who use the topic
• What the topic will be like in 25 years

This list could go on forever. As you decide on prompts and pyramid sizes, challenge yourself to choose experiences that will allow the students to interact with the topic in several ways. Your goal is to have your students learn something from more than one angle in order to promote retention of the concept or skill.


Variations and Extended Applications

Consider asking your students to create a visual related to the topic as they respond to your prompts. For example, use clouds with various forms of precipitation to express information about the water cycle, a ziggurat to express information about Mesopotamia, or a bar graph or pie chart to express information about graphing data.


Research on the “dual-coding” theory of retaining knowledge suggests that knowledge is stored in two forms-a linguistic form and an imagery form. The linguistic mode is semantic in nature. The imagery mode, in contrast, is expressed as mental pictures or even physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound (Richardson, 1983). The imagery mode of representation is referred to as non-linguistic representation. The more that we ask our students to use both systems of representation—linguistic and non-linguistic—the better they are able to think about and recall knowledge.


Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.