8 Graphic Organizers to Improve Learning

A graphic organizer can help students catalog ideas and become stronger writers

Types of diagrams

 Verywell / Julie Bang 

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 event. For instance, T-charts can be used in any content area to examine the pros and cons of something, advantages, and disadvantages, or 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 sub-ideas presented below.

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

Main Idea Web

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

Star Diagram

Star diagrams are similar to main idea webs, however, this type is typically used to catalog characteristics or traits. For example, star diagrams can be used to help learners create a biography of a historical figure. The subject's name would be in the center of the star with facts or traits about them located in the star's points.

To make a star diagram, draw a star on a page. Use as many points as needed. Write the main idea, event, person, or subject in the center of the star. Each point in the star is filled in with various key traits or facts about the central topic.

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. Similarities between topics are 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.

Hexagon Organizer

In a hexagon idea organizer, hexagons are arranged on the page with straight edges connected. Facts, ideas, or concepts are put inside hexagons, with related information put in hexagons that are touching each other.

This type of graphic organizer helps learners make sense of how things relate to each other and how ideas unfold and build upon each other. Students can use this information to inform their conclusions and understanding of complex topics.

Problem-Solving Chart

A problem-solving chart helps students think through issues to find potential solutions. Learners start with a problem, which is written in a box at the top of the page. The next steps are to fill in a subsequent box with why it's a problem, followed by boxes for possible solutions. The brainstorming boxes are divided into sections that allow space for possible pros and cons of each idea. Lastly, the most promising solution is highlighted at the end.

Problem-solving charts help students brainstorm and learn to evaluate potential solutions for a variety of problems. They also promote critical thinking skills as kids compare the benefits or drawbacks of various options and select the most promising one.

By Douglas Haddad
Douglas Haddad is an award-winning teacher and best-selling author, covering learning disabilities and other topics related to education.