DVT Software

Makes Sense Strategies Toolkit

Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit

Downloadable Software

  • 759 color and blackline interactive visual tools in the form of Microsoft Word (.docx) files organized into four categories:
    • Organizer Visual Tools (generic graphic organizers depicting hierarchic, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and sequence information structures;
    • Discipline-specific Visual Tools (for literature, writing, science, history, social/motivation, etc.);
    • Smart Planners for Teachers (designed for planning universal instruction);
    • Smart Planners for Leaders ( designed to supporting fidelity implementation).
  • Samples of how educators have used each of the visual tools

NOTE: Many schools, school districts, and even entire states have multi-user licenses for this toolkit. While many teachers very effectively use the visuals provided in the K-12 Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit when teaching Core Standards, these visual devices are not individually designed to address specific Core Standards nor tied to specific grade levels.

If your school is concerned with the Common Core Standards and has a limited budget, we recommend that you consider ordering from the Differentiated Visual Tools menu rather than ordering the Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit.

It is very beneficial, however, to order both the Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit and from the Differentiated Visual Tools menu. There are numerous resources on the Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit that are not included in the Differentiated Visual Tools software.



The Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit consists of an extensive collection of interactive graphic organizers [i.e., users can type their own information onto the visual and save them as Word (.docx) documents]. Color versions of the visual tools are designed for use with Smart Boards, Promethium Boards, or LCD projectors. Interactive blackline masters are designed for printing hardcopies. These are digital files and thus may be emailed to students or parents and/or saved to students’ electronic portfolios. Samples of how K-12 teachers have used these across the curriculum and grade levels are included.

The Makes Sense Strategies™ Toolkit features four categories of smart visuals:



Organizer Visual Tools feature an array of universal (generic) interactive visual tools (i.e., users can type their own information onto the visual and save them as Word documents) for hierarchic, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and sequence information structures. These are not discipline-specific, but rather universal in the sense that they can be applied across the curriculum and across grade levels.



Discipline-specific Visual Tools are not generic, but rather discipline-specific, and thus designed to address specific categories of the curriculum:

  • Literature
  • Process Writing
  • Vocabulary
  • History / Science
  • Math
  • Social / Motivation
  • Project-based Learning

For example, the History / Science visual tools included in this toolkit are specifically designed to address “high-frequency topics” typically addressed in history or science content classes (i.e., famous people or groups, important places/geography, events, processes, theories, ideologies/beliefs, policies/laws, conflicts/wars, issues, inventions). The Literature visual tools are designed to address areas such as plot/character/setting analysis.



Smart Planners for Teachers feature interactive visual tools designed for planning universal instruction and feature “backwards” planning techniques. These are specialized tools for:

  • Planning Content-area (e.g., History or Science) units and lesson plans
  • Planning Literacy (literacy skills and strategies) units and lessons.

These planners are unique in that they contain embedded prompts designed to cue teachers to make critical planning decisions associated with differentiating the curriculum (e.g., targeting essential understandings of big ideas and related vocabulary) as well as making critical decisions for planning instruction for “Before”, “During” and “After” lessons.



Smart Planners for Leaders feature an array of visual tools designed to supporting fidelity implementation in the use of visual tools across the curriculum. These include tools for planning (e.g., setting team goals and monitoring goal attainment), supporting on-going implementation, and evaluating fidelity implementation.

The bottom line: What’s the difference between the Makes Sense Strategies™ (MSS) Toolkit and the various Differentiated Visual Tools (DVTs) programs?

The various DVT programs evolved from the visual tools found in the Makes Sense Strategies™ (MSS) Toolkit, and might best be described as the next “evolutionary leap” in graphic organizer devices. The DVT programs are more refined in the sense that they are designed to significantly reduce teachers’ cognitive load when planning and delivering lessons that target specific language arts standards from the Common Core State Standards and the Career/College Readiness Standards. Some of the CCSS standards are very complex, so we have “drilled these standards down” to develop visual tools for teaching these complex standards in relatively simple and straight-forward ways.

While the MSS Toolkit provides an extensive collection of interactive graphic organizers that range in complexity from emerging literacy to very sophisticated, these tools are not precisely developmentally sequenced. Teachers must select those visuals they deem most appropriate for the developmental levels of their students and the content they are teaching, and they must also decide which of the visuals best address specific literacy standards they are targeting.

In contrast, the DVT programs provide a series of carefully sequenced visual tools that are scaffolded and target specific CCSS standards at each grade level. Thus, to create the DVT programs, we pulled visuals from the original MSS Toolkit, redesigned them as needed, and also developed new ones needed to target the more complex CCSS standards. We then provided instructional stratagems for using them.

While feedback from teachers about the MSS Toolkit has been extremely positive over the years, teachers familiar with that program seem to prefer the newer DVT programs in part because of the reduced cognitive load they provide.