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Three Reasons to Organize Your Thinking With Tables

May 11, 2021 / by Stefani Boutelier & Nicole Ludwig

Inserting a digital table (or drawing a few boxes) is an effective way to organize information in a structured manner. This allows you or your students to present information to make it easier to read and comprehend. Neuroscientists agree that chunking and organizing information helps with cognitive development and memory--with the added bonus of maintaining some sanity. Incorporating tables in your instructional design supports Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and accessibility with tables should be considered. 

Organize Your Thinking With Tables: 

You might already use tables during some of your daily activities but have you fully considered tables for personal, curricular, and curative purposes? Tables are a great way to personally stay organized while concurrently modeling for your students and aiding in making sure time is managed appropriately. They can be used to make sure tasks that need to be accomplished are achieved. Tables are also a great resource for self-reflection, assessment, and goal setting because they arrange information in a short form that allows one to determine if progress has been made (Tip: using checkboxes increases the benefit of this).

Consider the benefits of tables as you design your curriculum. They are perfect for planning curricular units as well as individual lessons. Doing so helps you to quickly organize all of the aspects of the units/lessons so you get a complete picture of all of the details (standards, sequencing, materials needed, assessment, scaffolding, accommodations, etc.). You may also choose to use tables when creating Hyperdocs or choice boards to encourage effective interaction and clarity for independent learning. 

Who doesn’t curate information in their heads, online, or on paper? Use tables to organize the collection of your thoughts with brain dumps, outlines, or cognitive mapping. Once you’ve created this table, make sure you don’t forget where you save it. Finally, where can you insert or draw tables? Look at the table below where we summarize our narrative above and consider the nearly endless possibilities of tools and locations. 

Personal 

Curricular

Curation

  • Calendars
  • Lists; Action steps
  • Meetings
  • Reflection; Goal setting
  • Self-assessment
  • Self-reflective data tool
  • Sign-ups
  • Seating Chart Notes
  • Planning Units; Lessons
  • Hyperdocs; Choice Boards
  • Design Thinking; Inquiry
  • Math; Timelines
  • Rubrics
  • Scaffolding
  • Student Data Collection
  • Character mapping
  • Cognitive mapping 
  • Brain dumps 
  • Note-taking (e.g., Cornell Notes)
  • Collaboration
  • Organize; plot writing; outlines
  • Compare and contrast

Where to Insert Tables

  • Directly into a digital document
  • Using slide decks (make a template for others to copy, collaborate in the same slide deck)
  • Drawing program or app 
  • Digital whiteboards (e.g., Jamboard) 
  • Spreadsheets
  • On individual paper
  • Tape the outline of a table on a whiteboard and have students fill it in with post-its
  • Large paper for collaborative tables
  • Tip: take a picture of any hard copy table to save for referencing 

Tables can no doubt become a pedagogical habit or obsession. The benefits outway the risk of being accused of a table fixation. Anytime a conundrum arises during your life (at work or at home), consider to yourself...will a table solve this? The answer will most likely be:

Topics: Professional Learning, Assessment, Lesson Planning

Stefani Boutelier & Nicole Ludwig

Written by Stefani Boutelier & Nicole Ludwig

Stefani Boutelier PhD is an Associate Professor of Education at Aquinas College in Michigan. Her teaching and research interests include action research, equity literacy, curriculum design, and educational technology. She is ISTE Certified and a Google for Education Certified Trainer. @stefboutelier Nicole Ludwig, MA is a fourth-grade teacher in Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan. Her teaching career has been spent serving urban student populations and understanding how to best support their growth. She is passionate about changing the narrative that has been written about data use in education.

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