What is a knowledge organiser and what should it include?
A knowledge organiser is a go-to document, (ideally one side of A4 and no more than two sides of A4) for a topic/unit of work: each one identifies the key information and dates that children need to have learned by the end of a topic. It also acts as a tool to support children in retaining and retrieving knowledge for life-long learning.
We have developed our own Knowledge Organisers to support the delivery of the curriculum, with each one starting with knowledge children should already know from previous learning. Each organiser also has a list of technical vocabulary with definitions.
Most knowledge organisers will include the essential age-related facts about the topic, usually laid out in easy-to-digest chunks; key vocabulary or technical terms and their meanings; images such as maps or diagrams; and famous quotations, if relevant.
What a knowledge organiser includes will depend on the subject. For example, a ‘World War Two’ knowledge organiser and a ‘Rivers’ knowledge organiser would both include maps, but the former would also include a timeline, and the latter would need diagrams.
How do you decide what information goes on a knowledge organiser?
We all want pupils to gain specific knowledge in each curriculum subject that builds up over time. Knowledge organisers can play a useful role here, as they can focus on one topic at a time, and grow in complexity across year groups.
As Mary Myatt explains in The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence: ‘The real power of knowledge organisers is that they make us think hard about what we are going to teach.’ We have reviewed our curriculum to ensure that it is well-structured, coherent curriculum so that our knowledge organisers are created for each existing project coverage.
How can we use them in the classroom?
There are several ways that you can use knowledge organisers with children.
- Send the knowledge organiser home with the children before the start of a topic to encourage discussion and prior research.
- Talk through the knowledge organiser at the beginning of the topic, asking the children what information has sparked their interest, and if they have any questions.
- Use the knowledge organiser to identify knowledge gaps throughout the topic.
- Display an enlarged copy of the knowledge organiser on a working wall, encouraging children to add information around it during the topic.
- Share the knowledge organisers on the class pages of our school website, to help with home learning.
- Use knowledge organisers to strengthen teacher knowledge in a subject area.
- Stick the knowledge organisers into the children’s topic books for regular reference, or cut up the sections to focus the children and deepen their knowledge in a particular area. Have paper copies available for the children to refer to during their independent work.
- Make links between knowledge organisers to help children understand how their learning connects. For example, remind the children of a previous year’s knowledge organiser and compare it with what they know now.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a revision tool. This is best done as ‘low stakes’ quizzing during or at the end of a topic, rather than a formal test. Do the children know more than is included on the knowledge organiser? Can they add detail to it? The aim is for the children to deepen their knowledge beyond the baseline outlined on the knowledge organiser.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a handy spelling and vocabulary reminder. Keep it visible at all times and expect the children to use the proper vocabulary correctly.