Activity: Thinking About Advance Organizers


This activity illustrates how a teacher might plan an advance organizer in history. The basic layout is applicable to science, math, or literature, too.


Step One: Look over the sample planning chart below. It deals with a lesson on a notable event prior to the Civil War: John Brown’s raid. The lesson is for an eighth-grade class.

Step Two: Compare the sample chart on the event to the advance organizer based on the chart. The organizer is an outline. A graphic form of this advance organizer is also provided. Once you review the outline and graphic organizer, think about which form, outline or graphic, you think would work better for most students.

Step Three: Use the blank planning chart below to plan your own organizer. Perhaps chose a topic from the following list.

  • Getting the proper nutrients in your diet
  • What is a bully? (how to recognize bullying behavior)
  • Maps: The basics
  • Odd and even numbers
  • Famous scary stories and why we enjoy them
  • Our solar system

Or select a topic that your students are currently studying.

Step Four: After completing your planning chart, answer questions one through three. If you’re working in a workshop or class, your facilitator or instructor may ask you to discuss your answers with the group.


  1. Did using the planning chart help you identify ways to preview the concepts and skills in the lesson? Why or why not?
  2. What sort of advance organizer did you think would work best?
  3. Why do you think your advance organizer would best be presented in that form?

Advance Organizer Planning Chart

Connect new ideas/skills to ideas/skills student already knows Explain new ideas/skills by defining, comparing, and/or giving examples Identify important relationships between new ideas/skills











Advance Organizer Planning Chart (Sample):

Social Studies: John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry

Connect new ideas/skills to ideas/skills students already know Explain new ideas/skills by defining, comparing, and/or giving examples Identify important relationships between/skills new ideas
Discuss how students might’ve heard the word “raid” used, such as “raiding the refrigerator.” Define “raid” and compare it with “battle” or “attack.”


Explain the relationship between John Brown’s raid and the disagreements between North and South that were leading to war.
Discuss groups in the U.S. before the Civil War (War Between the States) that were pro-slavery and that groups were anti-slavery. Define “abolitionist.” Identify the men (by type, not necessarily by individual identity) who joined John Brown and identify the soldiers who fought him, including Robert E. Lee.
Connect John Brown’s raid in 1859 with the Civil War (1861 to 1865) and what students already know about the causes of the war, such as disagreement on the issue of slavery and states’ rights and economic imbalances between industrial north and agricultural south. Explain the circumstances of John Brown’s raid and discuss whether Brown’s hope of success was realistic. Identify the effects of the raid and raise the question of in what sense it failed and in what sense it succeeded.


John Brown’s Raid at Harper’s Ferry
Advance Organizer

Review of Civil War

  • Began 1861 and ended 1865
  • Fought over slavery and states’ rights
  • War ended slavery in the U.S.


  • Raid – a sudden or surprise attack on a place or group, often with the intent of stealing something from the place or group (common usage today includes “raiding the refrigerator”)
  • Abolitionist – an opponent of slavery in the U.S. before and during the Civil War (Abolitionists typically lived in the North, though many southerners also opposed slavery for religious or moral reasons).

Consequences of the Raid

  • Marines kill or capture almost all of the raiders
  • John Brown and four other raiders hanged in December, 1859, in Charles Town; two more of Brown’s men hanged in March, 1860.

instruction unit4 activity