Graphic Organizers



Graphic organizers are visual displays teachers use to organize information in a manner that makes the information easier to understand and learn. Graphic organizers are effective in enabling students to assimilate new information by organizing it in visual and logical ways (Bromley, Irwin-Devitis, & Modlo, 1995). Flowcharts, semantic maps, t-charts, webs, KWL charts, and Venn diagrams are all examples of graphic organizers.


Using graphic organizers is associated with improved reading comprehension for students (Robinson, Robinson, & Katayama, 1999). In addition, graphic organizers have been effectively applied across other content areas, such as science, math, and social studies (Guastello, Beasley, & Sinatra, 2000; Hanselman, 1996).


Teaching Process

1.   Select a graphic organizer that matches the concepts and information students will be reading and learning. For example, information that relates to steps in a process may be displayed in a flow chart; comparing and contrasting information is well suited to a Venn diagram; a branching, hierarchical chart can accurately display ideas supported by specific details.

2.   Decide whether you will give students the graphic organizer partially filled in or blank.

3.   Distribute the graphic organizer and review it with students. Make sure students are aware of the logic behind the particular visual format being used. Tell students the content they are about to learn can be organized in the format, making it easier to understand, study, and remember.

4.   As content is covered, work with students to fill in the graphic organizer. It is useful to have students do this with a partner to create opportunities for oral language development.

5.   Once the graphic organizer is completed, demonstrate for students how it can be used as a study aid for recalling important ideas, supporting details, and processes. Be sure to base assessments on visual displays to reinforce for students the value of organizing information and ideas in graphic formats.



Bromley, K., Irwin-Devitis, L., & Modlo, M. (1995). Graphic organizers: Visual strategies for active learning. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Guastello, E. F., Beasley, T. M., & Sinatra, R. C. (2000). Concept mapping effects on science content comprehension of low-achieving inner-city seventh graders. Remedial and Special Education, 21, 356365.

Hanselman, C. A. (1996). Using brainstorming webs in the mathematics classroom. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 1, 766770.

Robinson, D.H., Robinson, S.L., Katayama, A.D. (1999). When words are represented in memory like pictures: Evidence for spatial encoding of study materials. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 24, 38-54.



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