Knowledge Organisers

What are Knowledge Organisers?

Knowledge Organisers are documents that contain the key information, or “threshold concepts” that your child needs to know for that particular subject. They are usually about one side of A4 for each topic, and children should aim to memorise as much of the detail on their Knowledge Organisers as possible.

Why does my child need their Knowledge Organisers with them in school?

There is currently a lot of academic interest in the role of memory, and how we can maximise its capacity and performance – something that is vital in order to access the new information-heavy curriculum.

One particularly effective method of helping facts to “stick” is something called “spaced practice”, where a subject is returned to again and again. Although your child may have moved on from one topic to another, their teacher will be revisiting the content regularly, to help your child to really secure that knowledge in their long term memory.

Isn’t this “dumbing down” my child’s learning?

Far from it! Young people nowadays have to know and retain more information than perhaps ever before, and while the use of Knowledge Organisers may look like rote learning, they are actually just the beginning of the learning process. Once your child has the knowledge they need securely embedded, they have the confidence and mental toolkit they need to be able to apply, evaluate and synthesise.

A common misconception is that Knowledge Organisers contain “all the information” needed for a subject. Sadly, this is not the case – if only it were that easy!

Knowledge Organisers only contain foundation knowledge from which students can build further knowledge and understanding. They function as a kind of skeleton comprising the key details that form the structure of a topic. Subsequent learning in the classroom will allow the student to build the layers of detail on top of this skeletal framework, and this highlights how important it is for children to use their Knowledge Organiser before classroom study, and not just as a revision tool.

What will they be doing with their Knowledge Organisers?

There are a number of strategies to ensure that your child is getting the best from these resources. These will be shared by class teachers as they set their homework, but the types of activities they may find useful include:

Self-quizzing: look, cover, write, check, correct

This is a really simple strategy that your child can do independently, but you may find it helpful to talk to them about any errors and help them to work through misconceptions. It is probably the most effective way to use Knowledge Organisers.

This is a homework that may be set frequently, because it encourages students to have a real understanding of where their own knowledge gaps are. Additionally, it helps them to become more resilient learners, because they are then able to address the misconception themselves.

Teachers will quickly be able to tell who hasn’t invested time in this strategy, because they will be less equipped to recall and apply knowledge.

How might this look?

English Literature Terminology Self-Quizzing
Look – read up to 10 techniques on your Knowledge Organiser. Cover – no peeking! Cover with a sheet of paper and think about it. Write – write down what you remember. Check – how did you do? You might like to highlight the correct parts in one colour, and the errors or missed bits in another. Correct –  find the parts that were missed or inaccurate and write them  down
Simile: when one thing is said to be like something else, usually using the words “like” or “as”. Simile: comparing one thing to another Halfway there, but missing a bit of detail. Simile: comparing one thing to another, usually using the words “like” or “as”.

Transformative tasks

These are a great way for teachers to check students’ knowledge; to be able to adapt something, you really have to understand its different components.

Teachers may ask students to apply the knowledge from their Knowledge Organiser to a different context, or present it for a different audience, for example.

How might this look?

Self-editing

Knowledge Organisers are a really effective way of encouraging children to check and edit their work before handing it in.

How might this look?

If, for example, your child has written an essay on patterns in the natural environment for Geography, before submitting it, they might spend some time reading it alongside their Knowledge Organiser.

If they highlight everything on the Knowledge Organiser that appears in their essay, they may find that they have not included enough content.

Likewise, if they find that too much of what they have written doesn’t actually appear on their Knowledge Organiser, they might consider whether it is relevant.

It is important that your child isn’t anxious about editing; some students don’t want to make their work look “untidy”, but teachers are much more concerned about the quality of their learning.

Editing usually indicates deeper thinking, which is never a bad thing!

How can I help?

As parents, working with our children can be one of the most effective ways to help them to gain confidence in their learning, but it can be frustrating when we simply don’t know enough about the topic our child is studying, or what exactly it is they need to know.

Knowledge Organisers are an excellent tool to support you in working with your child.

Activities that you might find helpful to help your child to learn their key information include:

Silent debate – write 4 key titles from the Knowledge Organiser on a piece of paper.

 Exercise 1

Use a timer and see how much they can remember about that topic in that time.

Exercise 2

No timer this time, but write down one-word questions: “How?” “So?” “Why?” “When?” “Result?” They have to respond in writing.

Exercise 3

if they seem really confident, encourage evaluation by writing: “Convince me!”, or “Prove it!”