Graphic organizers create powerful visual imagery during a lesson.
Graphic organizers act as essential learning tools for students. These charts are available in a variety of forms and can be created to suit the specific needs of an assignment. Often reading and language arts assignments are composed of lessons requiring comprehension of abstract concepts. Graphic organizers aid students in visualizing concepts, organizing information and recalling details. The different designs are too numerous to list, but graphic organizers for language arts can be divided loosely into eight categories for comparison.
Writing and Sequencing Charts
There are a variety of graphic organizers developed specifically to plan writing. Students often struggle to organize thoughts when writing an essay. Timeline organizers help students structure events into logical, chronological sequences. Herringbone graphs also help classify events, but this type of chart focuses on a central idea along the “spine” of the organizer, listing supporting details on the “bones” extending out from the center. Persuasion plans list the main argument of the essay, reasons for supporting the argument and examples or facts adding substance to the argument. There are several other types of graphic organizers for writing including descriptions of who, what, why, when, where and how, charts outlining story elements like characters, plot and setting, as well as event maps. The type of organizer selected depends largely on the purpose for writing and the content of the essay. However, regardless of the type of graphic design, all writing organizers serve the purpose of channeling information in ways that enhance the flow of a piece of writing.
Reading Comprehension and Main Idea Charts
Understanding material read is crucial to student understanding and academic growth. Using a graphic organizer to enhance comprehension of material demonstrates excellence in educational practice. Idea organization can take the simple form of connecting blocks outlining events in a story or more complex graphs dissecting a piece of literature into parts like central theme, mood, plot, climax and resolution. The possibilities are endless. Charts can be designed using various shapes to input information. Most commonly seen is a bubble web design, with the main idea in the center and circles branching out from the center for details that support the main idea. Whatever form the graph takes, it is important to note any information can be added to clarify ideas and create a concrete image better locking the information in memory.
Concept Maps and Venn Diagrams
Retention of nonfiction information is best presented using a concept map. Concept maps begin with a big idea at the top linked using lines or arrows to other connecting or related ideas below. Sometimes, labels are included on each connecting line showing the relationship between ideas listed in the circles. For example, a concept map for “amphibians” would have lines labeled “types” with bubbles branching out listing “frogs” and “salamanders.” Concept maps are excellent for organizing large amounts of information. Venn diagrams, which are two large overlapping circles, are also often used for nonfiction information, comparing and contrasting likes and differences. “Frogs” would be listed in one circle and “salamanders” in the other. Differences are listed in each circle independent of the other, while similarities between the two creatures are listed in the overlap of the circles. Though these charts are often used for studying materials, they can also be designed for a variety of purposes.
K-W-L and K-W-H-L Charts
These charts are best used when introducing new material. “K” stands for “What do we know?” “W” stands for “What do we want to know?” “H” stands for “How do we find out what we want to know?” “L” stands for “What did we learn?” These types of charts help keep an ongoing map of the learning process throughout a lesson. They are also able to reveal learning gaps or problems to the individual learner. When dissecting a story, if the student is unable to answer one of the questions above, more teaching or study is required. It is a useful, informal assessment tool in addition to being an organizational tool for instruction. K-W-L charts can be combined with any other type of graphic organizer to simplify information and ensure understanding.