Understanding: Graphic Organizers

What are graphic organizers?  That’s the first thing we need to understand.  They can be a number of things.  They can be a T-Chart, a mind map, a bubble sheet.  Essentially a graphic organizer is a fancy way of saying “worksheet”.  It’s a document that shows students where they can collect thoughts, and provides a tool they might want to use to enhance their performance.

Photo by 2H Media on Unsplash

How are Graphic Organizers used?

Ideally, students are explicitly taught how to use a number of graphic organizers throughout a course, and are provided a number of different types of graphic organizers so that they have a pool to draw from when needed. 

All assignments can be enhanced by adding graphic organizers.

Graphic Organizers in the Geography Culminating

Free Download:
CGC1D1 – Big City Guide: Grade Nine Geography Culminating Assignment Exemplar

Katherine Pearce ensured that each step of the culminating assignment was accompanied by clearly delineated boxes that indicated where students should add their own writing.  

Types of Graphic Organizers

Page 3 has a simple text box, while page 4 presents students with a 4-square chart.

Pages 5 and 6 include research and reflection slips.  Page 9 has a T-chart.

Throughout this culminating task, students are offered tools that their teacher thought would best enhance success.  Do students have to use those specific tools?  Of course not.  The rubric is focused on the final product.  These graphic organizers just help with chunking and scaffolding performance.  

The Importance of Graphic Organizers

When graphic organizers are presented as an option, they create the groundwork for success.  Eagle eyed assignment viewers will notice that a number of the specific requirements that are found in the rubric will be demonstrated even if the final product is not completed. 

Students who only complete the graphic organizers in the planning pages will still be able to receive a successful grade on the final product.  This is an important consideration for all assignments, but it is especially important for culminating projects which have the ability to lead students to overall success for the course, and credit accumulation.

The Calendar is a Graphic Organizer

The calendar is one of the most powerful graphic organizers in the entire culminating.  While it presents information, it also sets the stage for students to set their own goals, and track their own progress as they make their way through the culminating task.

A Final Note

The boxes on the graphic organizers that students are asked to fill in do not stand alone.  They each have accompanying text that fully explains their purpose so that students who are not reading every instruction, and are skipping from box to box, find themselves accommodated and able to fully participate in the task.

The inclusion of examples demonstrating what students should place in their boxes are also extremely important.  If nothing else, students who read through this task will learn a lot about Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, while also learning about how to collect the required information for their own self-selected city.

Graphic Organizers in the English Culminating

Free Download:
ENG1D1 – UNSDG App Design: Grade Nine Academic English Culminating Assignment Exemplar

The English culminating follows a very similar design and layout, ensuring that each step is accompanied by a graphic organizer.  One key difference is that the nature of the English project directs students to create an app.  The planning graphic organizer mirrors the template that they have been given to complete their task.

Visual Graphic Organizers

Best demonstrated on page 8, the additional template sheets show how graphic organizers can use images – graphics, if you will – to organize thoughts and ideas.  Rather than just including squares that can be drawn in, the actual image of a cell phone template allows students to best imagine their planning and design elements on the page.

While students may choose to use squares they have drawn on their own to design their app, presenting them with the alternate design on page 8 offers a new tool that can be used if students feel it will lead to greater levels of success.

Looking at Other Accommodations



Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

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