Visual representations can help students learn. Sometimes these representations already exist. For example, maps might be mounted on the classroom wall. Textbooks often have charts or diagrams. And the internet offers many photographs, charts, and infographics. If graphics like these aren’t available, teachers need to make them available. Parapros can help with this work. They can find visual representations or even (sometimes) make them.

This overview explores three types of graphic organizers. These are:

  1. concept maps,
  2. story maps, and
  3. flow charts.

Many other types are useful, but these are the big ones.

These types of graphic organizers help students do three things. Concept maps help students deal with difficult concepts. Story maps help students cope with the challenges of reading and writing. And flow charts help lay out the steps in a process.

Concept Maps

Concept maps help students understand difficult ideas. They map out a concept. The simplest ones put the concept in the center of an image. It might be in a circle or rectangle. And around that center image are other shapes. Each of those shapes contains an idea that is part of the central concept. The diagram below shows the concept, “fairness.”

instruction unit5 overview concept map 1

More complicated concept maps provide additional detail. For example, some shapes around the central concept might provide definitions while other shapes provide examples. Still other shapes might include words showing related concepts. These more complicated concept maps might look something like the template below.instruction unit5 overview concept map 2

Story Maps

Story maps are a lot like concept maps. But they explain stories instead of ideas. They typically deal with plot, character development, setting, and theme. But they can include other features of the story as well. Story maps can help students get involved with a story they are reading. And they show students how stories are constructed. Story maps can also be used to help students write their own stories. Stories are fictional, of course: invented by an author. But story maps can be used for nonfiction, too. More typical with non-fiction, though, is the use of an outline instead of a story map.

Flow Charts

Flow charts are diagrams. They show how something works—for instance, how the water cycle works. Or they can help students learn to perform the steps in a process—such as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

People who use flow charts often insert different shapes to represent different kinds of actions. But this level of complexity is not always needed. The diagram below shows what a simple flow chart looks like.

instruction unit5 overview flowchart 1

Other Graphic Organizers: Several Options

There are many other types of graphic organizer. For example, timelines help students track the sequence of events. T-charts can help them compare pros and cons or distinguish facts from opinions. Other types include:

  • fishbone charts, which show the sources associated with an event;
  • Venn diagrams, which identify how groups of things (or ideas) are similar and different; and
  • crosswalks, which align two sets of things (for instance, various tools and their uses).

Classroom Use of Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers can be created in various ways. Educators can draw them freehand on the chalkboard or poster board. Or they can create them by using computer-based templates or software programs. A large number of relevant resources (e.g., templates and design tools) are available on the Internet.

Creating a graphic organizer can also be part of the lesson. Advance organizers (see Unit 4) are something educators develop. But students can make organizers for what they are learning, too. Maybe the lesson teaches the steps of a process (like the water cycle). Or maybe the lesson involves brainstorming ideas. These ideas could be listed on the board using a concept map. The teacher, for example could lead the discussion while the parapro added concepts to the evolving concept map on the board.