5 Types of Graphic Organizers to Improve Learning Outcomes

Visual thinkers can organize their thoughts with these graphic organizers

Graphic organizers can help learning outcomes for students.. www.educationandbehavior.com

Graphic organizers are visual and graphic displays that organize ideas and demonstrate relationships between different information and concepts. They are designed to improve learning outcomes for students, review information, and are especially helpful to students who struggle with arranging information.

There are many different forms of graphic organizers, each with its own unique way of organizing and displaying specific bits of information.

The following examples are a sampling of different types that teachers utilize to help students better organize their thoughts, develop reading strategies, and become stronger writers.


A T-Chart helps organize ideas into two columns and examine two components of an object, concept, or events. For instance, T-charts can be used in any content area to examine the pros and cons of something, advantages and disadvantages, facts and opinions. Students can select two things to compare (ideas, characters, events, etc.) and write them as headings for the two columns. From there, comparisons or contrasts can be made in both columns.

Concept Map

A concept map shows relationships between the main idea and other information. Concepts or ideas are represented in circles or boxes and are linked to related ideas with arrows. Most concept maps represent a hierarchical structure with the most general concepts or ideas presented at the top of the map and the more specific or sub-ideas presented below.

Another feature of a concept map is the inclusion of cross-links to demonstrate relationships between concepts in different segments of the concept map.

Main Idea Web

A main idea web starts with a central idea and branches out into related ideas and details (or sub ideas). Sometimes referred to as spider or semantic maps, this type of graphic organizer is used primarily for brainstorming and generating ideas for planning or writing purposes.

Venn Diagram

A Venn diagram is used to compare and contrast two or more groups of things by visually displaying their similarities and differences in two or more circles that overlap.  Similar information between topics is presented where a circle from one category overlaps with a circle from another category. Features that do not fit in both categories are placed where the two circles do not overlap. Venn diagrams can serve to increase understanding of a relationship between two or more concepts.

Sequence Chart

A sequence chart (or flow diagram) presents a series of steps or events in order. Many learners need a visual aid to help clarify a sequence of events in a story or to come to conclusions about different cause and effect (or problem and solution) relationships between multiple events in a text. Students can use this type of organizer as a flowchart to organize thoughts as a prewriting activity or as part of a classroom activity that makes students responsible for a portion of a classroom assignment (e.g. jigsaw technique).

A cycle diagram is a type of sequential chart that is used to represent a sequence of stages, tasks, or events in a circular flow. This kind of diagram accentuates the flow and interconnection between things, rather than emphasizing the actual stages or steps.

Author Byline: Dr. Douglas Haddad is an author, nutritionist, and middle school teacher in Connecticut who is a regular contributing writer to Parenting Special Needs magazine in the “Ask the Professional: Dr. Doug” section. For more information on empowering your kids and assisting in their maturation, decision-making, overall development and well-being, visit Dr. Doug’s official website.


1. William and Mary School of Educations. Different Types of Graphic Organizers and Their Uses. (2005). Retrieved from http://education.wm.edu.

2. Graphic Organizers. National Center On Accessible Instructional Materials. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/.   

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