Importance Of Graphic Organizers In Vocabulary Building

Learning new vocabulary can be a challenge for students.

Teachers are constantly faced with introducing new vocabulary to students in all subject areas. Words that seem common to teachers can be a puzzle to students. A student’s knowledge and experience has an effect on how familiar he is with vocabulary. The teacher is faced with the dilemma of make new subject matter and vocabulary meaningful to her students. Graphic organizers can help. These organizers can be utilized in all subject areas and have been shown to have a positive effect on a student’s ability to learn new vocabulary.


A graphic organizer is a visual display that shows how words or concepts are related. A graphic organizer can be used with comparisons, cause and effect relationships, sequence of events as well as vocabulary. With vocabulary learning, the graphic organizer can help students see how words are related and so help them to better understand meanings. The graphic organizer can be used in teaching new vocabulary as well as in assessing vocabulary learned in a subject area. A student can use the graphic organizer as a study tool when reviewing for a test. The graphic organizer can be used prior to teaching a subject area or following instruction to organize the concepts taught.

Vocabulary Map

A vocabulary map is a type of graphic organizer that helps a student learn new vocabulary. Create a chart that allows the student to write the word, its definition, a synonym, an antonym, an illustration of the word and a meaningful sentence using the word. The map can be a simple chart with columns for each category. Or it can be in a web format in which the student puts the vocabulary word in the center of the web with each category extending around the center word. When teaching vocabulary words for a particular unit, a chart format may be more helpful, as all of the words needed can be placed on the chart for later review.

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T chart

A T chart shows attributes of similar terms in a particular subject area. Draw a lowercase T or cross on a sheet of paper. Place two vocabulary terms on either side of the T. For example, to learn the words “alligator” and “crocodile,” place each word at the top of the T. Then under each word list the attributes to help the child distinguish between the animals.

Venn Diagram

A Venn Diagram is used to show comparisons between words or concepts. For this graphic organizer draw two large ovals on a sheet of paper with the ovals intersecting in the center to show two large sections on either side and one smaller section in the middle. Write the vocabulary terms being compared above each of the larger spaces. Write the word “both” above the smaller middle space. In the example of the alligator and crocodile, the student writes down words or ideas to describe each animal under its name. In the center section he writes down any characteristics that relate to both animals.

Vocabulary Notebook

Students may use a vocabulary notebook to keep an ongoing record of vocabulary specific to a subject area. Each page in the notebook would consist of four to six empty blocks. As new vocabulary is introduced, the student would write in the vocabulary word, a definition, a picture to illustrate and a sentence or example of the meaning of the vocabulary word. An example of the usefulness of this graphic organizer would be to keep an ongoing book of math vocabulary. As new terms are introduced students would add to the book. The book then gives the student a ready reference and a study guide for tests.

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Graphic organizers can be used for a variety of reasons. Using them for vocabulary has been shown to be an effective way to teach and reinforce new vocabulary in the classroom. Using a variety of types of graphic organizers can provide for different student learning styles. Although there are a variety of commercially made graphic organizers, they can be created by teachers and students.