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Graphic Organizer

Graphic Organizers are printed charts or forms that assist students in producing visual representations of the concepts, organization, or arguments of a text selection. Most often, these tools help students isolate and analyze the main ideas of a document.

Lenski, Wham, and Johns (1999) describe five types of graphical organizers:

The Enumeration (Description) Graphic Organizer prompts students to identify main ideas and list possible definitions, related terms, or examples.

The Time Order or Sequence Graphic Organizer helps students uncover the logical progression of ideas in a document—from earliest to latest, from most to least important, etc.—and then to place specific items or details within this sequence.

The Compare and Contrast Graphical Organizer asks students how two related concepts are alike and different and then to chart these comparisons on a Venn diagram.

The Cause and Effect Graphical Organizer helps students recognize causal relationships between events and produce a chart of causes and effects leading to a conclusion.

The Problem and Solution Graphical Organizer allows students to investigate and analyze possible solutions to problems.

Steps to Using Graphic Organizers:

  1. Select a reading text for the class and identify the most appropriate graphical organizer to assist student comprehension of the document.

  2. Duplicate and distribute the template for the selected organizer to the class. Students can work individually or in small groups to complete the organizer chart as they read the passge.

  3. Encourage students to discuss—in small groups or with the entire class—their entries in the organizer. Have students make any necessary refinements to correct misconceptions or sharpen imprecise language.

Learn More:

  • Alvermann, D.E. (1981). "The compensatory effect of graphic organizers on descriptive text." Journal of Educational Research, 75, 44-48.

  • Clarke, J., Martell, K., & Willey, C. (1994, March/April). "Sequencing graphic organizers to guide historical research." The Social Studies, 70-75.

  • Lenski, Susan D., Wham, Mary Ann, & Johns, Jerry L. (1999). Reading and learning strategies for middle and high school students. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

  • Graphic Organizers


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