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Using graphic organizers to facilitate learning

Updated on October 3, 2011

Definition of Graphic Organizers

  • Graphic organizers are visual and spatial displays designed to facilitate the teaching and learning of textual material (Ellington, 2006).
  • They help students structure their learning, visualize the way information is presented in lectures and organized in texts, map out stories to improve comprehension, and see the relationships among vocabulary and concepts (Smith, 2007).
  • Graphic organizers connect important words or statements to diagrams, show a process, or present a sequence. Students often have difficulty reading and understanding information in textbooks and other expository texts, which are sometimes poorly organized (Smith, 2007).
  • Graphic organizers come in many different forms, including maps, pictures, graphs, charts, diagrams and photographs (Smith, 2007).
  • They serve as great study guides, and can be used for presenting new information or reviewing content (Smith, 2007).

What the Research Says

  • The use of graphic organizers has been proven to help students with learning disabilities to gain knowledge more effectively and efficiently (Ellington, 2006).
  • Visual displays can be successfully implemented at several phases of the instructional cycle, and as both advance and post-organizers (Hall & Strangman, 2002).
  • Successful learning outcomes are contingent in certain variables, including grade level, point of implementation, instructional context, and ease of implementation (Hall & Strangman, 2002).
  • A computer-based system can be successfully used to instruct students how to develop concept maps. However, knowledge-mapping scores (determined by comparison to expert maps) were significantly improved for individuals working individually to elaborate maps while collaborative approaches may be less effective. (Hall & Strangman, 2002).

Tips for Implementation

  • You should develop a version with all the information, serving as an answer key. Prepare one for students with missing information that you want them to focus on (Smith, 2007).
  • Select material that is difficult for students to understand or that is poorly organized, and divide the chapter into sections (Smith, 2007).
  • Construct an outline from the material (Smith, 2007).
  • Select a format for the organizer that matches the structure of the information and can include diagrams that sequence, compare and contrast, or classify. It should be clear and easy to follow, and should fit on the page (Smith, 2007).
  • Once they have been completed, discuss and correct them. Make sure to verbalize relationships between the concepts represented within the organizer, providing opportunities for student input (Hall & Strangman, 2002).
  • Use software programs to create graphic organizers. Some programs can transform web content into an outline for students to study from or use to write reports (Smith, 2007).

Examples of Implementation in Inclusion Settings

  • Graphic organizers work well when students are assigned to cooperative learning groups (Smith, 2007).
  • The use of a computer software application that allows students to create graphic organizers can help foster reading comprehension in an inclusion classroom if other teacher tools and training are not available. Students needs can be met by a combination of teacher assistance in creating a graphic organizer in the most appropriate format (Hall & Strangman, 2002).

Keep in Mind

  • Students can create their own organizers as they become more comfortable and they understand content better (Smith, 2007).
  • There are a variety of graphic organizers that can be used, and one isn't necessarily better than another (Ellington, 2006).
  • The same graphic organizer can be used for multiple subjects (Ellington, 2006).
  • Without teacher instruction on how to use them, graphic organizers may not be effective learning tools (Hall & Strangman, 2002).


Ellington, L. (2006). Graphic Organizers. Update on LD, 3. Retrieved April 14, 2008, from

Hall, T., & Strangman, N. (2002). Graphic organizers. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved April 14, 2008 from

Smith, D.D. (2007) Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.


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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      I love your work and explanations here. Graphic organizers are incredibly important for visual learners, too. I'm definitely visual.

    • elenox profile image


      8 years ago from Missouri

      This is very helpful for explaining information to students. You can see them internalize things so much more when presented visually (generally). I would encourage parents to think about applying these principles in helping their kids understand values or other things they want their kids to emulate.

    • plcarpe profile image


      8 years ago from Illinois

      I would like to link to your hub, since it is on the same topic. Would that be okay with you. Also, would you link back to mine. Also, I am new at this. Does Hubpages have a tool for linking hubs, or do I paste your url into my page? I wouldn't mind putting in a text box, and labelling it so that you get credit. I would like to call it something like your title name, only not a title. Thanks for any help. That way, we'd be promoting eachother, or at least I would be promoting you, but I think if you like my site and made a link to me, we'd both be increasing revenue, or is this allowed?

    • danatheteacher profile image

      Dana Rock 

      9 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I use these GOs everyday with my students. They just remove some mental barriers or scaffold higher organization.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow! Great information here! I need to use these mind mapping techniques with my students. Thanks!

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      First time I have read this hub. Great information !

    • gramarye profile image


      9 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Those links were great - thanks!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! Bruce, I added some links to information about graphic organizer programs... although I have to say I usually just use Word and other Office programs to make them :)

    • Bruce Elkin profile image

      Bruce Elkin 

      10 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada

      Hey, cool! I used manual graphic organizers - doodles, and charts - and a formal one called telescoping end results to help me and my clients organized life and work around what matters. So this is helpful.

      Do you have any links to programs with templates or tools to make such graphic organizers?

      I'd appreciate you pointing me in that direction. Thank you!

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      11 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wonderful if only I can get myself as organized as your page is! :)

    • rudevils profile image


      11 years ago from Indonesia

      Nice hub glassvisage, with graphic and image learning would be more interesting. Cause sometime students are easier to remember graphic instead of boring text.


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