What Are the Benefits of Graphic Organizers in Elementary Language Arts?

Graphic organizers help improve reading comprehension.
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Graphic organizers may look like simple fill-in-the-blank worksheets, but they are actually so much more. These pieces of paper full of circles, squares and connecting lines help improve students' comprehension and encourage them to think critically. Whether they are used to compare and contrast, analyze relationships, brainstorm, explore concepts or just take notes, graphic organizers help students see their reading and writing instruction in a new way.

1 Making Connections

Using graphic organizers helps students make valuable connections in the language arts classroom. Venn diagrams and other graphic organizers designed for comparing and contrasting help students make connections between texts, characters and other elements of literature. Cause-and-effect graphic organizers help students see how events in a story are connected, thereby improving their comprehension of a text. Concept maps boost students' critical thinking skills as they begin to understand how different subtopics connect to a topic as a whole.

2 Helping Logical and Visual Learners

Verbal or linguistic learners tend to perform well in a language arts classroom, but not all students are verbally or linguistically inclined. Graphic organizers help students with different learning styles, particularly logical and visual learners. While reading a story, students can use a graphic organizer to outline the sequence of the story, identify the main traits of a character or chart the conflicts that appear in the text. For example, a graphic organizer may have a box for a character's name in the middle and boxes around the page asking for examples of the character's feelings, thoughts, actions and physical characteristics. This helps students to see the text in a new way -- and through a medium that fits their style of learning.

3 Organizing Information

When conducting research or reading a long novel, students may have difficulty keeping information straight. Graphic organizers help them organize their information in a logical, easy-to-read format. They can use graphic organizers to keep track of research sources or key facts to include in a research paper. For example, students may list their research topic at the top of a graphic organizer and have boxes below it representing subtopics and two or three facts related to each subtopic. Students can also use graphic organizers to provide examples of particular themes or types of conflict in a novel.

4 The Writing Process

The writing process can be daunting for many students. Using graphic organizers, students can break down the process into manageable steps. Students can use graphic organizers to brainstorm and focus ideas for a research paper or short story, placing a general topic at the top and narrowing the topic in the boxes below. They can use graphic organizers to outline their writing, including those designed for specific types of writing, such as how-to papers, compare-and-contrast essays or narratives. Additional graphic organizers can help students write introductory paragraphs, body paragraphs and conclusions. Before students realize it, they will have written their entire paper using graphic organizers -- needing only to edit their work and clean it up.

Stacy Zeiger began writing in 2000 for "Suburban News Publication" in Ohio and has expanded to teaching writing as an eighth grade English teacher. Zeiger completed creative writing course work at Miami University and holds a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in secondary education from Ohio State.