Graphic Organisers- visual frameworks that guide thinking
Marzano (1998) provides detailed meta-analyses of a number of teaching strategies, including the use
of graphic organisers (he uses ‘graphic representations’ as a catch-all for such techniques).
Graphic organisers use some kind of visual framework to guide the learner’s thinking.
There are a multitude of designs, and they variously use a combination of text,
images, diagrams, arrows, boxes etc. The content and position of the material on a
graphic organiser shows the relationships within the information.
Graphic organisers are an extremely powerful tool in enhancing achievement:
The following are some examples that I have created using the structural suggestions made in Naylor,
Keogh and Goldsworthy’s (2006) excellent resource Active Assessment. The examples only illustrate
one form of graphic organiser designed to directly explore the relationships between elements within
multi-part conceptual models. Links to different forms of graphic organiser are provided further down
Graphic Organisers: compare and contrast
A compare and contrast graphic organiser
provides a framework that requires learners
to identify similarities and differences
between two or more objects, events or ideas.
They rely on there being some form of
relationship between the things being
In terms of learning, they help develop
constructs, and provide a mechanism for
teachers to identify errors and omissions in
a learner’s understanding.
Graphic Organisers: reasoning by analogy
This form of graphic organiser requires learners
to identify similarities between objects, events or
ideas. In particular they help identify structural
and/or functional similarities.
This form of graphic organiser relies on there
being a relationship between the things being
compared, and the learner has to use their
understanding of this relationship to complete
In terms of learning, they force students to
compare constructs, and reveal the fine detail of
Graphic Organisers: whole-part relationships
These types of graphic organiser invite learners
to identify the functional and systemic relationships
between objects and systems.
They illustrate the nature of the relationships between
the things being compared. By de-constructing the
relationships into smaller units the relationships
that exist between them are easier to recognize
Looking for whole-parts relationships, learners refine
their constructs, adding to detail and developing
the links between composite ideas.
The optimal use of graphic organisers followers the core rules that have been espoused throughout this
website- they must be designed with clear learning goals in mind, these challenging goals and linked
success criteria must be clearly communicated to learners, students should be supported individually or
in small groups to fully engage with the material, and rich feedback should be provided to learners with
regard to their understanding and areas of misconception.
Make your own- templates
More theory and useful examples for creating and using other forms of graphic organiser can be found
in Balanced Reading’s PDF guide here, and in Scholastic Red’s free guide here. The Irish SLSS provide
this excellent guide to using graphic organisers in different subjects on their website.
Blank templates that you can use to produce a wide range of graphic organisers can be downloaded for
free from here or here. If your budget has 20 quid in it, then this might suit you, although I personally
recommend the great value text by Katherine McKnight.
Model Learning offer on-line guidance on creating various Graphic Organisers, and offer INSET packages
that focus on the area.
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