To get a deep understanding of how graphic organizers are constructed, it’s useful to try to create some. Creating one or more graphic organizers will also give you a chance to try out some of the resources that are available for creating them: features of software programs such as Word and Excel, downloadable templates, and on-line tools to assist with graphic design.
- First decide what you want to teach (or reinforce) by using the graphic organizer. It might be a new concept, a sequence of events, or the causes of an event. Choose something relatively simple.
- Next select a type of graphic organizer that works well to teach what you are planning to teach. For connecting ideas to a new concept, concept maps work well. For analyzing the features of a story, perhaps use a story map. To delineate the multiple causes of an event, a fishbone diagram works well. Showing the steps in a process often can be accomplished using a flow chart.
- Then search the Internet for illustrations of the type of graphic organizer you’ve decided to use. Also look for tools to help you develop that type of graphic organizer. The tools might be a template or an actual on-line design program. You can generally find templates by using two search terms: the name of the graphic organizer (e.g., “fishbone”) and the word “template.” You can generally find development tools by using the name of the graphic organizer and the word “generator.” Be careful if your search turns up freeware to download from the Internet. Sometimes freeware can be packaged with viruses (less often) or with unwanted piggyback software (more often). If you are not experienced with downloading freeware, choose the template option. Or you might try the third option: using a generator that operates completely on-line. There are several of these available for designing concept maps, but probably not many for designing less common graphic organizers.
- Create the graphic organizer using the template or other tool. Perhaps show it to your supervising teacher or another paraprofessional with whom you work and ask for feedback. If you are pleased with how the graphic organizer turned out and it fits with what students are studying, share it with one or more students.
- Reflect on the process by thinking about answers to the following questions:
- What was rewarding about the process of creating a graphic organizer?
- What was frustrating or difficult about the process of creating a graphic organizer?
- How might your own learning be enhanced through the use of graphic organizers?
- What did you learn about the specific type of graphic organizer by creating it?
- What other types of graphic organizers are you interested in developing? How will you use them with students you are teaching?