Most methods of organizing information are appropriate for Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization courses. Four organizational strategies are described and illustrated here: flash cards, running concept lists, matrices, sample word maps, and Venn diagrams (D. Applegate, CAL). If you need more detailed descriptions of these strategies, please refer to the Organization page of the General Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization courses introduce a number of terms, people, dates, lists, art works, works of literature, architectural works and styles, musical pieces, and theatre plays. One effective way to organize these types of information is flash cards. Flash cards are easy to manipulate and sort, and they may be used for self-testing.
For terms, people, dates, and lists, write the idea on one side of the flash card and the definition or explanation on the other side. For art work, xerox the image from the book and tape or glue it on one side of a flash card, reserving the opposite side for the artist's name, the title of the work, the medium, the genre or time period, and other relevant information.
Color coding is very helpful for Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization flash cards. Information related to one topic, such as the Baroque period or ancient Rome, may be recorded using one color of ink, one color of flash cards, or one color of highlighter. Color coding helps you keep track of relationships among information.
Examples of flash cards with Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization information are provided below.
Running Concept Lists
Also called split-page vocabulary lists, running concept lists may be used to organize the same types of Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization information as flash cards. Compared to flash cards, running concept lists are not as easily manipulated, but they do help to emphasize relationships among associated information.
Running concept lists may be arranged in one of two ways. One approach is to group the information by type: put all terms and definitions on one sheet, all people and their contributions on another, all lists on another, etc. The other approach is to develop topical running concept lists: put all the terms, names, lists, etc. for a particular topic - The Reformation, Minoan culture, or The Enlightenment, for instance - on one sheet.
To make a running concept list, simply divide a sheet of paper into two columns by drawing a vertical line from top to bottom. Terms, names, dates, etc. are written in the left-hand column, and definitions and explanations are recorded in the right-hand column. It helps to put a title at the top of each page.
Illustrated below is a topically arranged running concept list covering ancient Greece.
If your goal is to compare and contrast two or more concepts, to condense several pages of material into one organizer, or to see the relationship among main ideas and details, then matrices may be the appropriate strategy. A matrix is a table of information arranged in columns and rows. Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization information that is suited for matrices includes two or more people, places, nations, genres of art, time periods, types of government, and concepts.
The concepts being compared in a matrix are usually written as column headings. The characteristics used to describe the concepts are often recorded as row headings, but in matrices there are no row headings (as in the first example below). Details are recorded in the "cells" formed by the intersection of the appropriate row and column.
An example of a matrix that compares and contrasts ancient Roman and Greek forms of government is illustrated below.
Illustrated below is a blank matrix template for comparing and contrasting information about several cultures. It could be used, for example, to organize information about early Minoan, Mycenaean, and Egyptian culture. Or, information about Italian Renaissance culture versus northern Renaissance culture might be organized in this format.
Shown below is a blank matrix template for compiling information about art works. It is followed by two completed examples.
Sample Words Maps
A sample word map is used to organize information about a specific Arts and Humanities / Western Civilization term, place, person, or time period. The item is written in a center box, a short description of the item is written above, characteristics of the item are written to the right, and examples of the item are listed below.
Single sample word maps may be recorded on flash cards, or several related word maps may be placed on a sheet of paper. Sample word maps may be color coded to indicate relationships or to aid in remembering.
Provided below is a completed sample word map for the Classical period in Greek history.
Like matrices, Venn diagrams are used to organize information about two or more concepts in such a way as to emphasize similarities and differences. Each item is represented as a circle; color coding helps to distinguish each item and its characteristics. Similarities among the items are recorded in the area where the circles intersect, while unique attributes of each item are written in the rest of each circle. Arts and Humanities/Western Civilization information that may be formatted using Venn diagrams include terms, people, genres of artistic expression, time periods, and cultures.
The Venn diagram shown below compares and contrasts Italian and English madrigals.