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Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers

Learn About Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers help students to think about, visualize, and arrange their knowledge. In a traditional classroom setting, most teachers rely on talking, reading, and writing for representing and communicating concepts. Studies show that when students create nonlinguistic representations of their knowledge there is increased activity in the brain (Gerlic & Jausovec, 1999). Whether creating a concept map, a flow chart, or a simple storyboard, students must draw upon analysis skills to clarify relationships, organize their thoughts, and formulate plans or process steps. The process of creating the representations helps students retain information and extends students’ ability to convey and exchange their thinking in collaborative group work.

Bring New Strategies to Your Classroom

Using graphic organizers is a universal strategy that is equally appropriate across all grade levels and subject areas. It can be introduced at the beginning of a unit of study and referred to throughout, and used as a means of assessment. There are many uses for graphic organizers. 

  • A high school English teacher uses a chain-of-events graphic organizer while students are reading a novel. This organizer helps them to document events as they read, reflect upon prior reading, make predictions, and prepare for discussions. The completed work is used as an assessment.
  • An elementary school teacher has students create a T-chart to compare and contrast the differences and similarities of two Indian tribes. This T-chart is then used to help students with a multimedia presentation.
  • In middle school, a science teacher has students build a causal map to show the causes and effects of tectonic plate movement in a study of earthquakes. Discussions of each other’s maps leads students to deeper analysis of their findings.

Examples Across the Curriculum

Many types of graphic organizers can be used across grades and subject areas.
Concept Maps >
Concept maps help students cluster and brainstorm ideas and information. A causal map is a specific kind of concept map that shows cause-and-effect relationships.

Sequencing Activities >
These activities help students to sequence information and organize their thoughts in a logical way. These include chain of events, timelines, and storyboard planners.
Classification Charts >
T-charts and Venn diagrams are charts that help students organize information visually for comparing, contrasting, or finding similarities and differences.

Prioritized Lists >
These lists help students analyze and prioritize information while evaluating criteria for their decisions.