What should content-area teachers know about comprehension instruction?
Page 11: Using Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are visual aids designed to help students organize substantial amounts of content information. In addition to being effective for vocabulary instruction, graphic organizers can also enhance reading comprehension by helping students to categorize information and to show the relationships among important concepts. There are many types of graphic organizers. What works for one topic or task may not be appropriate for another.
Listen as Cynthia Shanahan discusses how teachers should select the type of graphic organizers they wish to use based on the content area and desired student outcomes (time: 2:16).
Cynthia Shanahan, PhD
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Executive Director UIC Council on Teacher Education
University of Illinois at Chicago
Teachers can find or create a variety of graphic organizer templates to improve reading comprehension in the content areas. It is important to keep in mind that the template’s design should be aligned to the teacher’s purpose for using it. For example, two teachers from Wilton High use different types of graphic organizers to help students organize information from their texts.
|Teacher/ Assignment||Purpose||Graphic Organizer|
Ms. Nor, 11th Grade, World History
Select a historical novel and summarize its key elements.
|Ms. Nguyen provides a graphic organizer to assist some students with organizing and summarizing information from the historical novel.|
Ms. Chesser, 10th Grade Chemistry
Be able to identify substances and their properties for an end-of-unit test.
|Ms. Chesser provides a graphic organizer to assist students to organize their notes for an upcoming test.|
For Your Information
Many Websites offer graphic organizers. Here are a few to get started:
When they use any kind of graphic organizer for the first time, content-area teachers need to explain its purpose and use. Teachers should model how to complete each section by verbalizing how to extract information from the written text and how to record it. With sufficient demonstration and guided practice, many students will be able to complete graphic organizers independently. In addition, allowing students to complete the graphic organizer with a partner or small group has the added benefit of creating opportunities to discuss the information, which in turn will help them to further clarify and reinforce the concepts.