Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers

by Owen Fourie

~ Part One ~

A graphic organizer is a useful tool for analyzing and synthesizing the substance of texts that you may have to study in any subject.

A student asked me for an example of a chain-of-events graphic organizer and a description of how to use it. This article is the outcome of that request.

I had thought of placing this post in the “Mechanics of Essay Writing” category, but it has broader application than that.

In fact, using graphic organizers in all your studies is a wise course of action. To do so is to equip yourself favorably to deal with all the material that you have to handle in the course of your student career.

The usefulness of graphic organizers extends beyond your college years to those situations in life where you have to deal with problems involving research and planning and development. It is a tool for life.

By using this tool, you will be helping yourself to master many things, many projects. You will be helping yourself, and that should be your goal as a student–not to be dependent on a teacher, but to teach yourself.

Graphic organizers can help you to do this.

Looking at this topic in this way convinced me to start a new category called “Self Help.”

Purpose of graphic organizers

As you read any text in any subject, you need to be able to assimilate the information in a way that allows you to speak of it or write about it in an intelligent manner.

You need to demonstrate your comprehension of the material. You need to show that you have thought about the subject and that you can agree or disagree with various points or issues as you use good reasoning ability to do so.

You have to progress beyond the mere regurgitation of facts.

To achieve this position as a student, you have to work towards it, and graphic organizers can help you on your way.

The purpose of a graphic organizer is

  • to enable you to deal with any text in such a way that you increase your grasp and understanding of it;
  • to help you to see the whole picture and not become lost in the detail;
  • to assist you to understand the relationship between the various parts as well as the relationship of the parts to the whole;
  • to give you a thorough grasp of the sequence of events, if that is what is required;
  • to prepare you to write or speak about the subject from the perspective of someone who has not merely read the text or texts but someone who has thought about the subject, interacted with it, and understood it;
  • to enable you to prepare the way for the writing of an essay, a short story, a novel, a thesis, or to do any project that is assigned to you;
  • to enhance your study skills.

Kinds of graphic organizers

Let’s list some of the various kinds of graphic organizers here. At the conclusion of Part Two of this article, you will find useful links to websites where you will be able to see them. This will give you a good idea of how to produce your own graphic organizers.

  • Chain of Events*
  • Cycle of Events
  • Character Map
  • Characters Compared/Contrasted*
  • Character Traits
  • Story Structure
  • Story Map
  • Story Organizer*
  • Fishbone Chart for Main Idea and Details
  • Main-Idea-Hierarchy Chart*
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Cluster/Cloud Diagrams
  • Spider Diagrams

* The use of these organizers will be discussed in Part Two.

Only a few are listed here. There are many others that you will find at the links in Part Two. In that post, we’ll consider two points:

  • How to use graphic organizers
  • Examples of graphic organizers


In your experience, how useful are graphic organizers to you? Do you have any useful insights? If you would like to see articles on other matters that concern you in your education, particularly in the self-help category, please comment here or use the contact form. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

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