San Diego County Office of Education

Graphic Organizers

What are graphic organizers?

Graphic organizers are visual representations of the concepts and knowledge gathered. They provide a frame for identifying important facts and concepts, organizing this information, and recording relationships discovered. Students today must be able to read, sort, comprehend, validate, and remember information from a wide variety of texts. Many students need to process the information in a visual process. Graphic organizers are powerful tools to help students make meaning out of complex information and be successful.

graphic_organizers_picGraphic organizers help students:

  • Gather information in an organized manner
  • Comprehend how the pieces of information are related
  • Organize opinions, information, and reflection
  • Synthesize information
  • Solve problems by integrating their thinking, reading, and writing processes
  • Practice high-level thinking skills and apply them to real life situations

Graphic organizers help teachers:

  • Explain and illustrate abstract concepts
  • Help students understand sequence and interrelationships
  • Provide second language learners with a visual image for new vocabulary and concepts
  • Review materials as a post-reading activity
  • Evaluate student understanding

Examples of graphic organizers show how they can be applied to lessons in different content areas:
Sequencing (application/pdf)
Identifying (application/pdf)
Evaluating (application/pdf)

What to consider when differentiating instruction

Because graphic organizers provide opportunities for individuals or groups to process information and thinking, they encourage differentiation by their very nature. To maximize differentiation, teachers should remember to allow for a variety of representations. If a graphic organizer is filled out in one required manner, the differentiation opportunity diminishes. Teachers can maintain the flexibility of employing these information organizers by allowing for student learning preferences and choice. For example, English learners might use their primary language, and students with special needs might use pictures as words to capture their thinking.


Houghton Mifflin Education Place Graphic Organizers (outside link)
In Education Place teachers can find multiple choices of graphic organizers listed by strategy, provided in PDF format.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) Graphic Organizers (outside link)
NECRL offers a description of graphic organizers and their uses with visual examples shown on the webpage; also includes a comprehensive list of references.

Scholastic Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension (outside link)
Numerous graphic organizers are provided in a writeable PDF format, along with teaching tips on how to use that particular type. Includes source information when applicable.

TeacherVision Graphic Organizers (outside link)
TeacherVision is a resource for teachers with classroom-ready lesson plans and printables. Graphic organizers are categorized by content discipline, strategy, or concept, available in PDF format.


Flynn, K. (1995). Graphic organizers…helping children think visually. Cypress, CA: Creative Teaching Press, Inc. (Graphic organizer pages reprinted with permission from author.)

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