Different Types Of Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers help students organize and better retain information.

Graphic organizers can be a helpful tool in the classroom. The visual aspect of graphic organizers helps students better comprehend, analyze and collect information. Graphic organizers can also help students better retain important information from text and research. They can also encourage valuable prewriting planning. There are many types of graphic organizers, and they lend themselves to different types of information and uses.


A Venn diagram is a classic graphic organizer that highlights similarities and differences between two or more things. To create a Venn diagram, simply draw large overlapping circles — one for each element of the comparison. For example, if the comparison involves two elements, such as day and night, draw two overlapping circles large enough to write inside each part. If the comparison involves three elements, such as polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears, draw three overlapping circles. Make sure each circle overlaps every circle. There should also include one area that intersects all three circles. To utilize a Venn diagram, label each circle with an element. In the portion of the circle that does not overlap with any other circles, write unique information for that element — characteristics that are not shared with the other elements. Then, within the overlapping portions, write shared traits between the elements. Pay close attention to which circles are overlapping to ensure correct information. If comparing more than two things, write common characteristics of all elements within the middle intersection. A T-chart is another popular graphic organizer for comparing two things. Draw a large lowercase “t” on a page and label the top two portions with the two elements for comparison. Underneath each label, record information in bullet form. To highlight similarities, connect commonalities with a line or highlight similarities in various colors.

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Sequential Information

A timeline is a perfect organizer for sequential information. Utilize timelines when organizing information containing dates, years or times of day. To create a timeline, draw a long horizontal line across the middle of a paper with the longest sides of the paper at the top and bottom. Draw a short vertical line at each end of the line. Write the high and low extremes for the information on these lines. For example, if the information being used contains events from 1925 to 1975, write 1925 on the left side and 1975 on the right side. Analyze the information and record the events on a separate piece of paper. If needed, rearrange the events in sequential order. Add the first event to the timeline by drawing a short vertical line near the low extreme and label the line with the event above or below the timeline. Continue to add events to the timeline until all the information has been represented. If possible. add close events with a small amount of space between them to show a short amount of time between the two. Timelines are often used in social studies content. A sequence of events graphic organizer shows the order of events with or without specific dates or times. To create a sequence of events, draw a line of boxes connected by arrows pointing to the right. If needed, create a second or third line of boxes, connecting the last box in one line with the first box in the next line. Begin by filling in the first box with the first event. Continue to fill in the boxes sequentially to show the flow of events. These graphic organizers are especially useful for organizing important events from a story.

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Organizing Information While Reading

A K-W-L graphic organizer is a popular way to encourage active student participation and reflection while reading. A K-W-L can be completed together as a class or individually. Create a three-column grid. Label the first column with “K” for “know,” the second column with “W” for “want to know” and the third column with “L” for “learned.” Students complete the “K” portion of the organizer before reading by writing what they already know about the subject of the reading passage. For example, if the passage is about penguins, students may record that penguins do not fly, they live in cold climates and they lay eggs. Next, students fill in the “W” portion of the organizer with information they want to know about the subject. This information is usually recorded in question format. For example, students may want to know “What do penguins eat?” or “What continents do they live on?” Students then read the passage and complete the “L” portion as they read. Students can record the answers to their questions in the “W” portion as well as other new information. These organizers are most useful for nonfiction reading. Character maps are useful when reading fictional stories or novels. To create a character map, draw a box in the middle of a paper labeled with a character’s name from the story. Draw four boxes around the main box labeled with the following phrases: what the character says and does, how the character looks and feels, what I think about the character and what other characters think about the character. To complete the character map, students fill in information in each box while they read. If the reading assignment is a short story, the map may be completed in one day. If the assignment is a novel or book study, the map may be an ongoing project until the reading is complete. Encourage students to record the page number where they found the information in each box. For example, a student may write “short, blond hair — page 49” in the “looks and feels” box.

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Planning for Writing

A concept web is a simple but useful graphic organizer for prewriting planning. To create a content web, a student draws a large box in the middle of the page. He labels the box with the main idea of his writing such as “football” or “my family.” The student then brainstorms facts or ideas about the main concept to include in his writing. He writes each idea inside a circle and draws a line to connect the circle to the box. When completed, the student has a web of ideas and details to guide his writing. A storyboard is a popular prewriting graphic organizer for young students and reluctant writers. Create a storyboard by drawing four to five connected boxes with a second box underneath each one with lines for writing. A student then plans her writing by drawing four to five pictures depicting the main ideas of her story. Encourage the student to draw her pictures by starting in the first box and progressing across the page. The events will then be in sequential order. After the drawings are complete, guide the student to write one to two sentences underneath each drawing to describe the picture. When complete, the student can recopy the sentences from the storyboard in paragraph form, adding transition sentences if needed. This graphic organizer is especially helpful for creative writing.