What Is a Graphic Organizer?

Read this page to learn the definition, uses, advantages and limitations of graphic organizers. Some exquisite graphic organizer templates and makers are recommended to give you inspirations.

A graphic organizer is a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts or ideas. In addition to helping students organize their thinking and writing process, graphic organizers can act as instructional tools. Teachers can use graphic organizers to illustrate a student's knowledge about a topic or section of text showing areas for improvement. Graphic organizers are mainly used as a pedagogical tool to provide a visual aid to facilitate learning and instruction.

Graphic organizer

Benefits of Using Graphic Organizers

As useful and easy tools that can visualize and organize information, graphic organizers are often used as prompts for students to construct ideas, organize and/or sequence information, plan what to write, increase reading comprehension, brainstorm, organize problems and solutions, compare and contrast ideas, show cause and effect, and more. What the students need to do in most cases is to fill in the blanks. The ability to color-code thoughts in a picture can help significantly in understanding and remembering the information. Graphic organizers benefit students who use them in the following aspects:

Common Types of Graphic Organizers

Sequence charts, KWL charts, spider maps and Venn diagrams are some of the types of graphic organizers. They are usually used in visual learning to enhance thinking skills and improve academic performance on written papers, tests and homework assignments. Let's see what they actually are and how they are used.


Grid and Matrix Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are pedagogical tools that express the logic and relationships between items, facts and concepts in a visualized pattern, and help you understand and instruct the connotation of things better. Comparing with other comprehensive visual graphic organizers such as mind map and various charts, grid and matrix is much easier to create.

Grid and matrix chart graphic organizer

Main Idea and Details Organizers

As the term "Main Idea and Details" suggests, such kind of graphic organizer is often a great tool for brainstorming and divergent thinking. To create one, either with hand drawn tools or digital software, you need to draw a shape in the center and then draw divergent lines with shapes where you can put the secondary ideas. For example, if a student is going to give a presentation on how serious environment pollution, he would write the central idea "Environment pollution is serious in the center shape, with aspects illustrating how environment is being polluted, such as air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution and light pollution etc. If more supporting details are available, the he would add more shapes to the secondary level.

Main idea and details graphic organizer

Compare and Contrast Organizers

If you need to compare and contrast three objects, processes, or events, consider using compare and contrast organizers such as a Venn diagram. This graphic organizer consists of overlapping circles. There are sections of the organizer in which only two circles are overlapping, and there is one section in which all three circles overlap. This last section would include any information that is true for all two headings.

Compare and contrast graphic organizer

Sequence Chart

Sequence refers to a set of events, actions, numbers, etc. which have a particular order and which lead to a particular result . This graphic organizer looks like several boxes connected by arrows. A sequence chart organizer shows a series of steps or events in the order in which they take place. The leftmost box contains the first event in a chronological sequence, and the rightmost box contains the last event. This graphic organizer is perfect for writing or reading a short story, understanding the flow of a series of historical events, or understanding how flashbacks fit into a novel. Any concept that has a distinct order can be displayed in this type of organizer. It is an excellent tool for teaching students the steps necessary to reach a final point.

Sequence chart graphic organizer

Spider Map

A spider map graphic organizer is an organizational tool used to display knowledge in a visual framework which looks like a cobweb. It allows students to organize information from readings and make connections in a meaningful structure. Actually, it looks similar to a mind map, settling the central topic in the center and developing subtopics and further ideas in surrounding branches.

Spider map graphic organizer


A storyboard is a strategy that uses a graphic organizer to help students learn the elements of a book or story. By identifying story characters, plot, setting, problem and solution, students read carefully to learn the details. There are many different types of storyboard graphic organizers. The most basic focus on the beginning, middle, and end of the story. More advanced organizers focus more on plot or character traits.

Storyboard graphic organizer


A T-Chart might be the simplest graphic organizer for both teachers and students. It's mostly used for for comparison by separating information into two or more columns, such as the advantages and disadvantages of surfing the Internet, forming a layout in the shape of the English letter "T" . To create a T-Chart graphic organizer, the easiest way is to draw a large capital T. Set your title at the top and list facts about the two events on the two vertical areas. Each row in the chart compares one characteristic. You can make T-Charts with multiple columns to compare several objects, processes, or events.

T-Chart graphic organizer

KWL Chart

The letters KWL are an acronym, for what students, already Know, Want to know, and ultimately Learned in the course of a lesson. It's used to help guide students to keep their own pace and interest level through a lesson or subject matter. For example, for a class on the sun, students would write what they already know about the sun in the first Know space ("I know it is hot, I know it is in the sky). In the second Want to know space, the students write what they want to find out about the subject ("How many suns do humans have on the Earth? Why does the sun shines in the daytime?"). After the class completed, in the Learned space, the students write down what they learned about the sun. Through such a KWL chart, both the student and the teacher can easily figure out where the student is and what he might have missed and misunderstood.

KWL chart graphic organizer

Disadvantages of Graphic Organizer

Students Get Lazy on Note Taking

As it has shown above, graphic organizers make it easy and clear for students to organize concepts and ideas with appropriate structure. In this case, some students may simplify literal note taking to just a graphic organizer. However, the dearth of comprehensive and detailed knowledge guide might affect their performance in the exam.

Lack of Prompt Feedback from Teachers

For young students, both making a graphic organizer and creating a sensible answer for the graphic organzer can be time-consuming. In a 40-minute class, young students will probably spend 30 minutes drawing the graphic organizer and 10 minutes filling the blanks. If that is the case, the teacher won't have enough time to check and correct a student's work upon completion, thus failing to send the student prompt and valuable feedback on his work.

Tips for Using Graphic Organizers Effectively

  1. The teacher model and guide students on how to make and use the organizers.
  2. Use bullet points and sentence fragments rather than complete sentences to get ideas down and show how they are related.
  3. For complex material, consider teacher-generated organizers and let students fill them partially.
  4. Let students color outside the lines and make sketches to reinforce concepts.
  5. Offer a variety of organizers for day-to-day use to let students get used to using graphic organizers.

Graphic Organizer Templates

You can view big images of the examples by clicking on the magnifier buttons. If there is an example you want to use as a template, simply click the link under the image to download the original file and edit it.

How to Create Graphic Organizer

Preparational Work

Have a purpose in mind for your graphic organizer before creating it. Each type of graphic organizer is used for a specific purpose, so be sure that you draw the correct one for what you need to analyze or learn. Usually we can create a graphic organizer by hand drawing or digital software. To create a hand-drawn one, you'll need pencil, paper, eraser, ruler, and compass etc. As graphic organizers are so popular for education use, teachers are recommended to create digital graphic organizers which support convenient sharing and printing.

Use Professional Graphic Organizer Software

Edraw graphic organizer software is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. You are allowed to use the built-in templates for free to save time from creating new ones. With concise and multifunctional UI similar to that of MS Office software, Edraw offers you a quick start in no need of drawing skills. Abundant colors, shapes, icons, symbols and clip arts make it easy to design an attractive graphic organizer of different usages. Libraries will not limit your inspirations. You can create a new library of what you need beyond existing elements. Special tools such as pencil tool allow you to draw anything in your mind related to graphic organizer element by yourself. Create any quick thoughts in your mind freely without constraints to customize you own graphic organizers.

Graphic organizer software

Sequence Chart Software for Windows Mac Version Linux Version


From what has been stated above, you may have a basic understanding of what an organizational chart is. Knowing the types, usage, benefits and limitations of org charts as well as how to draw a professional organizational chart will help you in learning and teaching. Using visual thinking and learning product , students and teachers create graphic organizers as they brainstorm ideas, organize information, gather research, make visual associations and identify connections. Edraw graphic organizer maker would be a great choice!

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