3 Ways to Help Middle School Students Organize Their Thinking

Learn about three different and interesting ways that teachers can help middle school students organize their thinking.

Teaching middle school has shown me a few things. One of those things is that middle schoolers have various emotions and thoughts. Allowing our students to keep track of their thoughts is one beneficial way for them to relieve their stress and organize their thinking. 

Graphic Organizers 

Graphic organizers are diagrams and various kinds of graphs that are made to help people, particularly students, write down their thoughts. Organizers are a great way for students to arrange their thoughts. They help students articulate thoughts and allow them to have a visual representation of what they are thinking about.  

Students enjoy using graphic organizers in the classroom so they can keep track of a topic. Graphic organizers are great for our visual learners that need extra support too. 

Middle school students have a million thoughts in a day. Sometimes these decisions can be hard to process and it can be hard to digest information. If decisions take a long time to process, the graphic organizer can make processing information seem more relaxed. 

2 Peas and a Dog has created several graphic organizers that you can use to help your students organize their thinking.

This set of Middle School Informational Text Graphic Organizers contains 27 different graphic organizers to help students organize their thinking about ANY non-fiction book or article. It is the perfect resource for teachers who want students to critically read any non-fiction text and pull information from that text. These graphic organizers focus on summarizing strategies as well as these reading strategies: Predictions, Connections, Questions, Author’s Purpose, Main Idea, Determining Importance, and Extending Answers.

Resource Includes:

  • 27 Common Core Aligned Informational Text Graphic Organizers
  • 27 Non-Common Core Aligned Informational Text Graphic Organizers
  • Rubric and Points-Based Assessment
  • 3 Anchor Charts
  • Lesson Ideas
  • Google Slides and PDF Formats 

Teacher Feedback

“These are SO great to have. I love that they are digital. It is so easy to get these on to google classroom for my students to use.” – Cara J.

Another non-fiction graphic organizer resource is this Non-Fiction Graphic Organizers set. This resource contains 14 different graphic organizers to help students organize their thinking about ANY non-fiction book or article. 

Resource Includes

  • 7 Summarizing Strategies Graphic Organizers
  • 7 Reading Strategies Graphic Organizers
  • Lesson Plan
  • Standards-Based Rubric
  • Points Based Rubric
  • Google Slides and PDF Formats 

Teacher Feedback

“Thank you for this resource – very easy to use, lots of different strategies to use during the reading process of non-fiction materials, and adaptable to many grades! I’m excited to use it for my entire class soon! :)” – Miss Robinson

Brainstorming Activities for Students 

As teachers, we are always looking for ways to allow our students to express their thoughts and opinions. I love watching my students interact with each other collaboratively. Giving my students a chance to share their thoughts and opinions about a topic in class, even a real-world topic, gives them the chance to be heard. 

As teachers, we can give our students opportunities to use brainstorming activities. One of my favourite activities for middle school students is the Think, Pair, Share activity. 

The Think, Pair, Share strategy consists of students working together to solve a problem or answer a question about a topic assigned in a classroom. The TPS (Think, Pair, Share) strategy works as follows: 

  • Think– students brainstorm and think of different solutions to a problem. Students will think about this independently. 
  • Pair— students are paired with a partner or small group. 
  • Share– students are asked to share their thoughts and answers over the question/topic that the whole class was discussing. 

Think, Pair, Share is a great strategy for students to share their thoughts and opinions with their peers. I love to use this strategy in my classroom because it allows my students to organize their thoughts and clear their heads. 

When teaching the TPS strategy, I recommend giving your students certain expectations and some rules to follow. Setting expectations can be important when allowing your students to speak about a given topic. I always remind my students to be respectful and listen to other people when we share our thoughts. Looking for more information on this strategy? Check out this Think, Pair, Share blog post

Brain Dumps 

One of my favourite ways to organize my thoughts is by using a brain dump notepad. I love writing down my thoughts, frustrations, and goals. I use my brain dump notepad because it allows me to relieve stress and collect my thoughts. I loved this idea so much that I think implementing it with middle school students is a great idea. 

Brain Dumps are notepads, journals, or even pieces of paper where someone writes down all of the thoughts that are currently stirring around inside of their head. You can set a timer for five minutes to write down everything that is on your mind. If you cannot find the words to write, scribbles and drawings are another way of expressing yourself in a brain dump. 

A great way to incorporate brain dumps (or you can also refer to them as free writes) is by having your students keep a journal or a folder. 

  1. Have your students get their journals or folders out. 
  2. Set a timer for five minutes.
  3. Challenge your students to write or illustrate as many thoughts as they can collect on their paper.  
  4. Students will have this set amount of time to collect and write down their thoughts. 
  5. You can repeat this same process at the same time each week to help students organize their thinking. 
  6. After students write down their thoughts have them input any important information into their agenda or cellphone calendar. Teaching them this real-world skill is very important to help set them up for future success.

I hope this article about helping students organize their thinking has helped to give you some ideas for ways to inspire your students on how they can organize their thoughts. 

I have linked some fun notebooks in this blog post for teachers who want to try using the brain dump process for themselves. My favourite design is the kissing guinea pigs!

Additional Resources

  1. Renovating Your Daily English Class Routines
  2. Organization 101 For The Rotary Classroom

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