Graphic Organizers


Graphic organizers (GOs) provide a visual way to represent verbal information. The shape of the elements within the GO and the way the elements are positioned in relation to one another can provide additional information about the meaning of the GO as a whole.

GOs are most powerful when learners create them for themselves. The additional mental processing required to create an accurate alternative representation of information initially presented in sentences and paragraphs helps move the information into long-term memory.

GOs can serve multiple purposes. They should be considered:

  • a notetaking strategy (to be used while taking notes);
  • a notes condensation strategy (to be used after taking notes); and
  • an excellent vehicle for creating personalized study tools (to be used while preparing for quizzes, tests, presentations, etc.).

Types of Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers come in many sizes and shapes. Some of them are no doubt already familiar to you, e.g., timelines, flowcharts (also known as step or process diagrams), and organization charts. Here is a list of the graphic organizers covered here at the Expert Learners site:

Strengths and Weaknesses of Graphic Organizers

Like any other study tool, graphic organizers have both strengths and weaknesses. These should be considered when you are considering whether a graphic organizer is the right choice for a particular application.

Strengths of Graphic Organizers Weaknesses of Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers:
  • Can express conceptual relationships succinctly
  • Give the "big picture" at a glance
  • Help students encode info using a different modality than that in which info was initially presented
  • Help visual learners capitalize on their strengths
  • Let other learners practice an under-utilized modality
Graphic organizers:
  • Cannot hold a lot of text for detailed note-taking
  • Are not conducive to expressing certain types of info

Page last modified: September 15 2011.