The most commonly used examples of graphic organizers used in classrooms today would include KWL charts, Venn diagrams and bubble maps, which can be used from early childhood classrooms all the way up the educational scale. I will describe each one and discuss how each can be used.
What is a Graphic Organizer?
A graphic organizer is a visual template to keep and organize ideas. Charts and graphs are good examples of such graphic organizers used in the business world. In education, however, the quantity and variety of graphic organizers as well as the different names they go by can be endless. This article will discuss some of the most commonly used examples of graphic organizers and how to incorporate them into your class routine.
The Venn diagram is probably the most widely used graphic organizer as it can be used all the way from Kindergarten up to individual upper grade learners. The basic format is created from two somewhat overlapping circles. Each circle should be labeled to represent a different subject/idea/theme. The overlapping area will contain information that is true for both circles, while the information contained in the outer area of the circles should be reserved for what is true only for that circle.
For example, a kindergarten science class may use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast mammals and reptiles. The mammal circle would include information such as that mammals are born right from their mother and not from an egg. The reptile circle would say that the reptiles are born from eggs. The middle of the circle then could say that they are both examples of living things.
This diagram could also be used in reading to compare and contrast two different characters or books. In math it could be used to compare prisms and one dimensional shapes. The possibilities are endless. So much so, that in fact, some Venn diagrams are expanded to include three circles and compare three different items at once.
An example can be found at http://images.brighthub.com/media/5D097F_jeb4sp_edu_venn_diagram_blank.gif.
The KWL chart is used mostly to demonstrate progress throughout a unit. In the very beginning of a unit, you would ask students what their prior knowledge is on the subject you will be studying. Everything they already know about it would be written into the section marked K, for Know.
The W section refers to either what the student wants to know, or is wondering. This section can also be filled in during the beginning of a unit, or in case your students have little to no prior knowledge on the subject, it can be done after introducing them briefly to the subject at hand. This is where the students will tell you what they are interested in learning about regarding the subject and what they would most like to know. These questions are important as sometimes we as teachers forget that student questions are also great learning opportunities.
The L section of the chart is filled out at the end of the unit so that you can see what students have learned. This should contain only newly learned information and not what students already know. Use this information to check and see what student questions were answered during the course of the unit and take the time to see what can also be answered now.
A basic chart on fish habitats could state that the children Know fish live in water, they Want to know if they can live in any kind of water, and the L could be that they Learned that fish can live in fresh or salt water, and not tap water.
These charts are sometimes extended to become KWHL charts. The H stands for how and refers to how the students will find out what they need to know when being used with older, more independent learners.
See example at http://www.brighthub.comhttp://images.brighthub.com/media/02E91D_kwl.doc.
A bubble chart can appear slightly different from user to user, but the basic structure is always the same. There is a main circle in the middle of the diagram which will feature your main subject matter. Then, other smaller circles branch out from the main circle. Sometimes this will lead to other related circles branching out from the smaller circles or it can be left as a more simplified chart.
Students could use this chart, for example, to discuss the character traits of Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie's name would be in the middle circle and branching out would be words describing him such as; kind, selfless, curious, and gentle. These traits could have circles branching off that include examples from the story in which Charlie demonstrates these traits.
A template can be found at http://www.brighthub.comhttp://images.brighthub.com/media/573AC2_map3.gif.
These charts can be altered and modified to fit any teacher's needs in any subject. They can be extended and expanded to fit student needs as well. Once mastered by students, these common examples of graphic organizers can be created by students to monitor and organize their own thinking and learning.