Thesis Title

Implementing Graphic Organizers for English Language Learners in High School Biology

Graduation Date

Summer 2005

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science

Program Name


Program Director

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD


Graphic organizers are an important literacy tool to help students construct meaning from scientific information. The literature illustrates that graphic organizers are excellent tools for improving literacy and understanding of content area information; however it does not clearly illustrate the efficacy of graphic organizers specifically for English language learners (ELLs) in high school biology. The purpose of this study is to observe and describe what happens with my ELL students when I implement graphic organizers in my high school biology classes. The methodology is a qualitative case study. The sample population consists of 20 ELLs ranging from the age of 15-18 in three high school biology classes. The study specifically analyzes the ELL students’ graphic organizers, observational notes taken during the study, and student scores from the unit prior to the implementation of graphic organizers compared with students’ scores from the unit after the implementation of graphic organizers. Based on analysis, overall improvement was achieved with student ability to use graphic organizers improving throughout the study period. In addition, the overall scores for 15 out of 20 ELL students increased after implementation when compared to the scores prior to implementation. Perhaps more importantly, graphic organizers helped students improve skills that can be applied to other content areas and support their learning of English. Specifically, graphic organizers helped students learn to identify main ideas; practice their analytical skills including comparing and contrasting; increase engagement, ask meaningful questions, participate in meaningful discussions with classmates, and increase motivation; perform on-task and at higher levels due to an effective classroom environment where affective filters were lowered; and accurately discuss biological vocabulary and concepts while improving their written and verbal English skills.

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