Unit Organizer Routine

What is the Unit Organizer Routine?

A Unit Organizer is a devise to introduce and frame a "chunk of content" called a unit. It is a graphic organizer that presents a picture of the content of the unit. It is presented to students with their involvement at the beginning of a unit. Blank organizers are handed to students and filled in as the teacher presents the areas by means of big screen computer, overhead projector, etc. The basic elements of the Unit Organizer are:

  • Current unit
  • Last unit
  • Next unit
  • The bigger picture
  • Unit map
  • Unit relationships
  • Unit self-test question
  • Unit schedule
  • Expanded Unit Map
  • New Unit self-test questions

Lenz (1993) offers the following basic elements of the Unit Organizer:

  • It helps to frame a unit for students so that students and see and understand the: big picture."
  • It is used to help teacher introduce and build a unit so that everyone can:
    • understand how the unit can be part of bigger course ideas or a sequence of units
    • see a method for organizing knowledge
    • define the relationship associated with knowledge
    • clarify what has been done in relation to what must be done
    • monitor progress an accomplishments in learning
    • recognize what has been learned through self-questioning

How can the Unit Study Organizer Routine help your students?

Research during the development of the Unit Organizer Routine indicated that when teachers used the Unit Organizer Routine, understanding and retention of the information by low achieving students, students with learning disabilities, and average-achieving student improved substantially over baseline as reflected in unit test scores and in scores on unit content maps and explanations of those maps. The students of teachers who use the Unit Study organizer Routine regularly and consistently scored an average of 15 percentage points higher on unit test than students of teacher who used it only irregularly. Results of this study came from use in Social Studies and Science classes.

How can you implement the Unit Study Organizer Routine in order to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

In the initial research in the use of the Unit Study Organizer, teachers who wanted in invest energy and time in being more effective with diverse groups or students were successful in the routine. Students using the Unit Study Organizer know when a unit begins as the Organizer is presented. It helps all students, but particularly students with attention issues, to know where they are going, how long it will take to get there, what assignments will be done along the way.

Since the presentation of the Organizer means a new set of work is being loaded on the students, it is often met with groans. It may be useful to name the Organizer something appropriate to the course content to ease the pain. Examples might be “Sigmund” for a Psychology class, “Victoria” for World History, “George” for American Government. Because both verbal and visual methods are used in the presentation, students with disabilities in one of these areas have an additional method to understand the concept. Right brain oriented students have a graphic presentation of material.

Relationships, including cause and effect relationships are presented graphically through arrows. Teachers can allow students to choose whether they want to write down the “outline” in graphic form using circles and arrows, or in a traditional linear outline, thus adjusting to their learning styles. Teachers can have models of completed organizers for each unit available for students who desire more time to digest the material. For all students, but particularly for students with learning disabilities, the graphic presentation of abstract material, broken down into components is useful for comprehension. The self-test component encourages students to develop and ask questions at the beginning and throughout the unit. This is a major component of reading comprehension.

What are the different types of Unit Study Organizers?

Innovative teacher will find numerous alternatives to the original design, while maintaining the essential components. The organizer can be used throughout the unit to list examples, pose questions, take notes etc. Organizers may also be used for Courses, Chapters, Lessons, or any other segment of a course that a teacher presents.

Where can you find more information about Unit Organizers?

The Unit Organizer Routine is part of a series of booklets that describe an approach called Content Enhancement. The first source below is specifically about The Unit Organizer Routine, however, all booklets are recommended for a complete picture of the Content Enhancement approach. The Unit Organizer Routine booklet includes the process as well as reproducible Unit Organizers.

Lenz, K., Bulgren J., Schumaker, J., Deshler, D., Boudah, D. (2003) The Unit Organizer Routine. (1st Ed) Lawrence, Kansas: Edge Enterprises, Inc.

Lenz, K., Schumaker, J., Deshler, D., Boudah, D., Vance, M.., Kissam, B., Bulgren, J., & Roth, J. (1993) The Unit Planning Routine: A guide for inclusive unit planning (Research Report) Lawrence: University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning.