Graphic organizers are visual displays of information that consolidate important content and show the patterns and relationships among that content. Because they are easy to use and fast for teachers to review, graphic organizers make excellent assessments for, as, and of learning.
There are many different kinds of graphic organizers, often categorized according to common text patterns such as compare and contrast, cause—effect, and time—sequence. Here are 58 examples of graphic organizers.
When teaching students how to use specific graphic organizers, start with explicit instruction where you model how to complete the organizer. Since the process of completing the organizer is new, be sure to use content that is familiar to students. Then provide students with guided practice in using the organizer, again using familiar content.
Once students are at the stage of independent application, have them select the appropriate organizer for their assessment task or create their own. The key to using graphic organizers as an assessment technique is to have students choose or create the organizer that best suits their purpose because this will tell you whether they understand the relationships and patterns in the concepts you have taught. If you provide the organizer, you may only be able to assess whether students knew where to record specific information. (Refer to the free downloads section of this website to find Blackline Master T5 from my book 50 Tools and Techniques for Classroom Assessment. You can use Blackline Master T5 to assess the appropriateness of a student’s selection of organizer.)
Make multiple copies of graphic organizers that you have taught, and have them available for students to access at any time. Alternatively, since many graphic organizers are simple, post a single example of each organizer. Then, have students quickly create them as needed, or provide materials that will allow students with a kinesthetic preference to construct their own graphic organizers. For example, rather than photocopying Venn diagrams, provide students with a ball of wool and sticky notes and have them create desktop Venn diagrams. If you need a record of the work, you can take a digital photograph. Where possible, you might also try to give students the opportunity to use software, such as Inspiration or SMART Ideas, to create and complete graphic organizers on a computer. Research shows that students create more complex graphic organizers on screen than they do by hand.