Graphic Organizers: Part Two

Graphic Organizers

by Owen Fourie

~ Part Two ~

In Part One of this article, we considered two points:

  • Purpose of graphic organizers
  • Kinds of graphic organizers

Now let’s see how to use them.

How to use graphic organizers

To overcome the oppression of the text as it labors line by line to convey its message, the student should interact with it from the beginning:

  • Get an overview of the work by skimming and scanning it;
  • Read the entire text or assigned part;
  • Read any related matter;
  • Make brief notes as you read;
  • Ask questions; seek answers and clarification;
  • Form mental pictures of the subject, of its divisions and main points and how they relate to each other in the whole scheme of things;
  • Transfer your mental pictures of the subject to a suitable graphic organizer;
  • Refer to the text or texts to ensure the accuracy of the details in your graphic organizer;
  • Show the chain or sequence of events in a story or points in a thesis as you use an organizer.

If you were to have a graphic organizer for the events leading to the formation of the United Nations, you would choose the chain-of-events organizer:

  • This organizer could be arranged vertically from top to bottom in separate rectangles connected by arrows. Each rectangle would feature a brief note referring to one specific event in the chronological order of all the events leading to the outcome, the formation of the UN;
  • If you prefer it, the arrangement could be in horizontal order from left to right, but this would be more suitable where there are not as many events to show;
  • Provision can also be made outside the rectangles for additional notes if desired;
  • Dealing with the events leading to the formation of the UN, the first rectangle would refer to the Inter-Allied Declaration signed in London in June 1941;
  • The second rectangle would refer to the Atlantic Charter of August 1941;
  • The third to the Declaration by united nations in Washington, D.C. on January 1, 1942;
  • This is how you would proceed through several more conferences (Moscow, Teheran, Dumbarton Oaks, Yalta, San Francisco from 1943 to 1945) before concluding with the ratification of the Charter on October 24, 1945 and the creation of the UN.

Chain-of-events organizers are particularly useful in studies of cause and effect.

If you were to do a cycle of events for the plot of an assigned novel, you would choose a story organizer:

  • In a center circle, place the title of the novel;
  • Around the center circle, divide a larger circle into four segments labeled (in a clockwise direction) characters, setting, problem/conflict, and solution;
  • In a larger outer circle, divided into five parts, show the development of the plot as it moves (in a clockwise direction) from introduction/exposition to rising action to climax to falling action to resolution;
  • Within these divisions, write brief point notes using only nouns and verbs.

If you were to draw a graphic organizer for the comparison and contrast of characters in a novel, you would choose a characters compared/contrasted organizer:

  • In any and various geometric shapes arranged in five columns and three rows, prepare to list the things that two characters have in common and the characteristics that they do not share;
  • In the center column and the center point of the center row, place the title of the novel;
  • On either side of the title, place the name of one character in the second column and the name of the other in the fourth column;
  • In the first and third rows in the center column, above and below the title, place the characteristics that the characters have in common;
  • In the first and third rows of the first and fifth columns, place the characteristics that the characters do not have in common;
  • Another organizer for comparison and contrast is the Venn diagram.

If you were to outline the sequence of ideas in a technical work or a thesis, you might select a main-idea-hierarchy chart:

  • At the top of the chart, place a rectangle in which you feature the title of the work and its main idea;
  • Below this title-and-main-idea rectangle, place three rectangles, left, center, and right, in which you list three major points derived from the main point. The connection from the main point to the major points is indicated by arrows ;
  • Beneath each major point, construct three rectangles descending like columns. The connection from the major points to these supporting points is indicated by arrows. There will be nine such rectangular columns altogether. In these, you will list the sub-points supporting the major points.

There are many graphic organizers. You should find the following links useful.

Examples of graphic organizers

Click on any of the organizers to read the information given below the selection.


If you use graphic organizers, which type or types do you prefer and what are your reasons for preferring one and not another when you have a choice for the same project?

If you think that there are other points that could be made about using an organizer, please mention those points by commenting here.

Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

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