How to Use Charts & Diagrams in Classrooms

by Rachel Pancare
Creating a chart with students can help them maintain their attention.

Creating a chart with students can help them maintain their attention.

A common, effective teaching method is to use visual presentations in a classroom. Charts and diagrams are especially helpful, as they enable students to see ideas visually laid out in an organized way. Also, visual tools can help the students process content and to make connections more easily. Teachers can purchase or make charts to display around the room, or create a chart as part of a lesson. These tools are especially useful in elementary school, where children tend to have shorter attention spans.

Display a Chart

Posting charts or diagrams can help reinforce information that students are learning or have already learned. Hang the chart where students can see it. Ideally, the chart should be at the students' eye level or just above eye level. Use charts that have clear images and large text. You can keep charts that have information you would use throughout the year on display so the students can refer to them when they need to. For example, you can keep a chart about the rules of punctuation on the wall until school is out. You might want to hang other charts only during specific units or lessons. For example, if you are studying whales for two months, hang a poster of whales during that time.

Create a Chart

Using charts during a lesson helps engage your students. Many students are visual learners, so they understand and retain information better when the concepts are associated with images. If you are teaching a lesson about caterpillar anatomy, for instance, you might draw or post a large picture of a caterpillar on an easel and then label its body parts while the students watch. When creating a chart or diagram in front of the students, pause to ask questions or to invite the students to help you complete the chart.

Assign a Chart

You can also use charts and diagrams as assignments. Ask the students to create a diagram or chart related to something you are teaching. Charts are especially helpful for organizing data in elementary math. For example, students could create a chart that organizes shapes into shapes that have three, four, or five sides, which would be triangles, squares, rectangles and pentagons. Diagrams could be effective assignments in middle-school science classes. For instance, the students could diagram a plant cell.

Vary Your Charts

Try out different kinds of charts and diagrams with your students. Use a three-column KWL chart at the beginning of a unit or lesson to help the students plan their learning. The "K" in the KWL chart means "Know," as in what you already know. The second column in the KWL chart means "Want to know." The third column refers to "Learned," or what you have learned. Some students or the entire whole class can complete the first and second sections before or during a lesson, and they can complete third column at the end of the lesson. Use a Venn diagram after a lesson is completed to help students compare and contrast information. In a Venn diagram, two larger circles intersect to create a central oval. Information about one concept goes on one side. Information about a second concept goes on the other side. Information that is shared by both concepts goes in the center.

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

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