How to Use Graphic Organizers in an Elementary School


Graphic organizers are visual tools used to help students understand concepts such as reading, writing and math. Charts, graphs, pictures and timelines all qualify as graphic organizers. According to a study at the University of Amherst, primary school students learn more easily in a visual manner, rather than just an auditory way. Graphic organizers offer elementary teachers a clear way to help students organize information in a visual way.

Story Maps

  • Story maps can be organized in a variety of ways, but one effective technique features boxes for characters, setting and plot line. These can be utilized when students are reading a story or watching a movie or play. Fro example, if students are reading "Little Red Riding Hood," they can use adjectives to describe the wolf and the girl. They can write the time, place and atmosphere in the box for the setting and list all the events in the plot line box.


  • Timelines are great tools for chronological matters. Students can list events in a story or novel, categorize historical events or list personal experiences for pre-writing. For example, as fourth grade students study American history, they can create a timeline of the war of 1812. They can type or write the dates of specific battles between the Americans and the British, document dates when the ships were built or destroyed and catalog specifics of individuals.


  • Students can delineate percentages of a whole using a circle graph. For example, if 50 percent of the students in the class are girls, half of the pie will be shaded. Another tool, Venn diagrams, consist of three circles drawn with an intersecting middle. If factoring numbers, students can place one in each circle. If all three numbers contain a factor, it goes in the intersecting middle. For instance, if the numbers are 50, 75, and 100, the numbers 5 and 25 would be in the inner circle. Line graphs can exhibit facts, such as the changes in rainfall or temperature.

Spider Maps

  • Spider maps are tools to use in the pre-writing phase of any writing assignment or to visually understand complex material. With the keyword in a large middle circle, students can write clarifying information in spokes jutting out from it. For example, if students are studying Native American tribes, the word "Iroquois" could be in the center circle, surrounded by smaller circles containing key words like Location, Livelihood and Important Members. Filling in the circles with information keeps ideas organized.

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