Use Graphic Organizers To Increase Reading Comprehension

Graphic organizers are an effective educational tool because they help students organize facts, thoughts and other comprehension elements such as inferences, predictions and summaries. Graphic organizers can be used in subjects such as science and social studies to improve comprehension in these areas as well as reading. The teacher should model the use of several organizers that are best suited for the comprehension activity and guide their students while they practice applying what they have learned. This type instruction will help students comprehend more when they are reading independently.


1. Select a graphic organizer that best applies to the reading assignment. For example, if the class has read a story or a novel, use a story web to demonstrate separate story elements such as plot, setting, main idea, conflict and resolution. If the class has read an informational text such as a chapter from a social studies textbook, use a K-W-L Chart or a sequence organizer to outline important dates, people and events (see Resource 2 for examples of these organizers).

2. Complete an organizer in class on the overhead projector or dry erase board. Do not use one that has already been completed. Explain to the class where you got the information that you are using or the strategies that helped you, such as using prior knowledge to make connections to the characters in a story.

As a follow up, complete another organizer, but ask your students to supply the responses and information needed. Do this each time you present a new type of graphic organizer to the class.

3. Observe students while they complete a graphic organizer in class. Pair students or put them in small groups with three to five members. Walk around the room and listen to the discussions to assess their level of understanding. If possible, sit down with each group, look over their work and give immediate feedback and suggestions.

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4. Each time you demonstrate the use of graphic organizers, explain how they can be helpful when reading independently. It’s doubtful your students will stop and complete a Venn diagram after they read a chapter in a novel at home, but they can learn to use the mental concept that this diagram teaches, which is comparison and contrast. Emphasize to your students that completing graphic organizers requires them to use specific strategies that will also help them obtain the meaning and relevance from the text.