organizers (some of which are also called concept maps, entity relationship
charts, and mind maps) are a pictorial way of constructing knowledge and
organizing information. They help the student convert and compress a lot of
seemingly disjointed information into a structured, simple-to-read, graphic
display. The resulting visual display conveys complex information in a
Increasing Understanding by Creating Graphic Organizers:
The process of
converting a mass of data/information/ideas into a graphic map gives the student
an increased understanding and insight into the topic at hand. To create the
map, the student must concentrate on the relationships between the items and
examine the meanings attached to each of them. While creating a map, the student
must also prioritize the information, determining which parts of the material
are the most important and should be focused upon, and where each item should be
placed in the map.
The creation of
graphic organizers also helps the student generate ideas as they develop and
note their thoughts visually. The possibilities associated with a topic become
clearer as the student's ideas are classified visually.
Uses of Graphic Organizers:
Graphic organizers can be used to structure writing projects, to help in problem
solving, decision making, studying, planning research and brainstorming.
Graphic organizers can be drawn free-hand or printed. To go to printouts of many
graphic organizers, click on one of the links above or below.
Adding color-coding and/or pictures to a graphic organizer further increases
the utility and readability of the visual display.
How to Choose a Graphic Organizer for Your Topic/Task (click on a graphic
organizer below to go to printable worksheets):
The task at hand determines the type of graphic organizer that is appropriate.
The following is a list of common graphic organizers - choose the format that
best fits your topic.
the topic involves investigating attributes associated with a single topic, use
a star diagram as your graphic organizer. Example: Finding methods that help
your study skills (like taking notes, reading, doing homework, memorizing,
If the topic involves investigating attributes associated with a single topic,
and then obtaining more details on each of these ideas, use a spider diagram as
your graphic organizer. This is like the star graphic organizer with one more
level of detail. Example: Finding methods that help your study skills (like
taking notes, reading, memorizing, etc.), and investigating the factors involved
in performing each of the methods.
If the topic involves investigating multiple cause-and-effect factors associated
with a complex topic and how they inter-relate, use a fishbone diagram as your
graphic organizer. Example: Examining the effects of improved farming methods.
If the topic involves generating a web of ideas based on a stimulus topic, use a
clustering diagram as your graphic organizer. Example: brainstorming.
If the topic involves a chain of events with a beginning and with multiple
outcomes at each node (like a family tree), use a tree as your graphic
organizer. Example: Displaying the probabilistic results of tossing coins.
of Events: If the topic involves a linear chain of events, with a
definite beginning, middle, and end, use a chain of events graphic organizer.
Example: Analyzing the plot of a story.
If the topic has definite beginning and ending points, and a number of divisions
or sequences in between, use a continuum/timeline. Example: Displaying
milestones in a person's life.
If the topic involves a clock-like cycle, use a clock graphic organizer. Example
topic: Recording the events in a typical school day or making a story clock to
summarize a story.
Cycle of Events:
If the topic involves a recurring cycle of events, with no beginning and no end,
use a cyclic graphic organizer. Example topic: Documenting the stages in the
lifecycle of an animal.
If the topic involves a chain of instructions to follow, with a beginning and
multiple possible outcomes at some node, with rules at some nodes, use a
flowchart. Example: Computer programmers sometimes use flowcharts to organize
the algorithm before writing a program.
If the task involves examining the similarities and differences between two or
three items, use a Venn diagram. Example: Examining the similarities and
differences between fish and whales, or comparing a book and the accompanying
Diagram: If the task involves condensing and organizing data about
traits of many items, use a chart/matrix. Example: Creating a display of key
inventions, who invented them, when, where and why they were invented, etc.
Diagram: If the task involves analyzing and organizing with respect to
three qualities, use a Y-Chart. Example: Fill out a Y-Chart to describe what you
know about an animal, including what it looks like, what it sounds like, and
what it feels like. Or describe a character in a book, including what the
charater looks like, sounds like, and how the charater feels.
Diagram: If the task involves analyzing or comparing with two aspects of
the topic, use a T-Chart. Example: Fill out a T-Chart to evaluate the pros and
cons associated with a decision.
If the task involves distinguishing the facts vs. the opinions in a theme or
text, use fact/opinion charts. Example: Fill out a fact/opinion chart to
evaluate the facts and opinions presented in a news article.
If the task involves analyzing the plusses, minuses, and implicatios of a
decision or an action, use a PMI Chart. Example: Fill out a PMI Chart to help
evaluate the positive, negative and interesting points associated with taking a
Making Diagrams: If the task is making a decision, use a graphic
organizer to enumerate possible alternatives and the pros and cons of each.
Example: Fill out a desicion making diagram to help decide which elective
courses you'd like to take next quarter.
Feature Analysis Charts: If the task is comparing characteristics among
a group of items, use Semantic Feature Analysis . Example: Fill out a Semantic
Feature Analysis chart to compare and contrast the care needed for various pets.
and Effect Diagrams: If the task is examining possible causes and
effects in a process, use a cause and effect graphic organizer . Example: Fill
out a cause-and-effect diagram to trace the steps in a feedback loop..
If the task involves analyzing and organizing what you know and what you want to
learn about a topic, use a KWHL chart. K stands for what you already KNOW
about the subject. W stands for what you WANT to learn. H stands
for figuring out HOW you can learn more about the topic. L stands for
what you LEARN as you read. Example: Fill out a KWHL chart before, during, and
after you read about a topic.
If the task involves showing divisions with a group, use a pie chart. Example:
Draw a pie chart to show what percentages of a population have blue eyes, green
eyes, or brown eyes.
Map: Graphic organizers can be useful in helping a student learn new
vocabulary words, having them list the word, its part of speech (noun, verb,
adjective, adverb, etc.), a synonym, an antonym, a drawing that represents the
word, and a sentence using the word.
Structure: These graphic organizers help you organize the structure of a
paragraph, including a topic sentence, sentences with support details, and a
Diagram: If the task involves analyzing the Five W's (Who, When,
Where, What, and Why) of a story or event. Example: Fill
out a 5 W's Chart to help evaluate and understand the major points of a
Map: Story maps can help a student summarize, analyze and understand a
story or event.
Traits: Graphic organizers help the student identify the traits of
fictional characters by looking at events surrounding the character in the text.
Diagrams Graphic organizers are useful to help prepare for writing a
biography. Before writing, the graphic organizer prompts the student to think
about and list the major events in the person's life.
Report Diagrams: Many graphic organizers are useful to help prepare for
writing a report on animals. Before writing, the student should think about and
list the major topics that will be researched and covered in the report.
Report Diagrams: These graphic organizers are useful to for doings a
short report on a country or other area. The student draws a map and flag, and
looks up basic information on the area.
Diagrams: Many graphic organizers are useful to learn and do math,
include Venn diagrams, star diagrams, charts, flowcharts, trees, etc.
|Flowchart of How to Choose a Graphic
To find an appropriate graphic organizer, answer the following questions
about your topic: