How to Implement Nonlinguistic Representation in the Classroom

According to Marzano, Pickering and Pollock in Classroom Instruction that Works, nonlinguistic representation is "probably the most underused instructional strategy of all those reviewed in [the] book" (83). 1) A variety of activities produce non-linguistic representations and 2) non-linguistic representations should elaborate on knowledge.

Graphic/Advance Organizers

Marzano, Pickering and Pollock (2001) mention several varieties of graphic organizers, also known as advance organizers. Graphic organizers should be carefully aligned to the type of text used and chosen based upon the desired outcomes for the assigned task. Categories include:

  • Descriptive pattern organizer
  • Process/Cause-Effect pattern organizer
  • Episode pattern organizer
  • Generalization/Principle pattern organizer
  • Concept pattern organizer

Bloom Balls can be used to elaborate knowledge. Pattern & Example from Tuck Everlasting & High School U.S. History class

A Bloom Ball is a great activity for allowing students to practice their cooperative skills and exhibit their creativity. A Bloom Ball is created by gluing together 12 circles that contain information important to the concept they are studying. Students can research background information that can expand their knowledge about the time, the environment, important vocabulary, and other things that deepen understanding. Linked here are some photos of Bloom Balls, created by students at Collins Middle School in Fayette County, as they read Tuck Everlasting and studied World War II.

Additional graphic organizers can be located in the book by David Hyerle, Visual Tools for Constructing Knowledge (1996). 

Other Uses of Nonlinguistic Representations:

Physical Models: Physical models must go beyond the "errupting volcano." They must be combined with other concepts of learning. Many teachers use manipulatives to help students turn concrete ideas into mental images.

Generating Mental Pictures: Simply stated, the students create mental images of the content they are studying. Teachers may want to facilitate this (“Imagine walking along…” and “Picture in your mind…”).

Drawing Picture and Pictographs: Most students have used drawings to represent their thinking. A variation of drawing is the use of a pictograph which combines symbols or symbolic pictures to represent information.

Engaging in Kinesthetic Activity: Kinesthetic activities involve physical movement. Most children find this a natural and enjoyable way to express their knowledge.

Using technology to teach non-linguistic representation in a middle school classroom-ESD112

Using technology to teach non-linguistic represenation in a high school history class-ESD112


Helping Fourth Graders Understand Measurement: William Bintz & Sara Moore Summary Marshall Memo January 2012 from NCTM article