Graphic Organizers

In recent years graphic organizers such as diagrams, webs, maps, charts and concept maps have become valuable educational tools. Both teachers and students are encouraged to use graphic organizers to organize and present information visually because this often allows them to convey meaning in a way that would not be easy through words alone. For example, elementary school teachers use them to help even the youngest students understand cause and effect in literature so that children can retell the stories in their own words. And high school teachers can use graphic organizers to help their students understand and explain complex scientific principles. Teachers have discovered that these tools can be used in the following manner:

  • Analyzing: By critically examining details, processes, relationships, or meaning, better understanding is achieved. Teachers and students could use organizational charts, concept maps, or Venn diagrams as part of their analysis.
  • Brainstorming: A problem solving technique where students are encouraged to spontaneously, quickly, and creatively share ideas while one person writes them down, often in the form of a web.
  • Sequencing: Ideas or events are prioritized or ordered. Teachers sometimes use this technique to help students understand the relationship of events or the hierarchy of information. This often takes the form of a flow chart or outline.

With the increased access to computers and the Internet in schools, software programs and Web resources have been designed specifically to help teachers bring this process of thinking and learning into the classroom. Computer programs such as Inspiration can be used to quickly, easily, and very neatly convey meaning to an audience.

Types of Graphic Organizers


Use to show definitions, attributes, examples, and brainstorming


Use to show attributes, comparing and contrasting, and evaluating.


Use to show classifications, pedigrees, analysis, structures, attributes, examples, and brainstorming.


Use to show processes, sequences, causes and effects, and chronology.


Use to show physical structures, descriptions of places, spatial relationships, concrete objects, and visual images.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Graphic Organizers can be used to promote higher order thinking skills. Refer to this chart to determine the type of organizer you would use to reach each level of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Bloom's Level

Type of
Graphic Organizer



Spider Maps
Linear String

to describe item;
to describe a sequence of events, continuum, storyboard, cycle


Hierarchy Diagram

to classify items



to predict sequence of events


Fishbone Map
Concept Map

to identify causal relationships
to explain relationships


Idea Map

to solve or plan


Venn Diagram
Comparison Matrix

to compare/contrast two items
to compare/contrast two or more items

Student Use of Graphic Organizers

Whether in a learning station or a lab setting, students can use electronic graphic organizers across the curriculum. Visual diagrams provide a high-level view, revealing patterns, interrelationships, and interdependencies. They also allow students to reduce complex information into small parts that can be more easily understood and learned.

  • In math, students can create flow charts to help them work through problems with numerous steps.
  • In science, they can create diagrams that help clarify complex processes such as the water cycle.

Teacher Use as a Productivity Tool

There are a variety of software tools to help teachers with all the paperwork that inevitably comes with the job. From word processing to electronic gradebooks to multimedia presentations, the right software can, once you get the hang of it, make your life easier. Inspiration is one of these helpful tools.

Teachers can use a tool like Inspiration to perform many administrative tasks. They include:

  • Organizing and presenting content;
  • Creating learning activities; and
  • Lesson planning and curriculum organization.

Kathy Schrock has published a good article describing the benefits of using Graphic Organizers in an educational setting. Read her article here.

Sample Graphic Organizers

Elementary Level

All Levels

Higher Level Math