Students with a learning disability (LD) often have difficulty keeping schoolwork organized. A visual display of information, thoughts, and ideas is extremely beneficial for a student with an LD. Graphic organizers are useful tools for expressing knowledge, clarifying concepts, and showing relationships. A graphic organizer can help students organize assignments into manageable pieces and guide them through the process to completion.
Think of how a kitchen is organized: cutlery is placed in a drawer; plates and bowls are stored together; perishable food is in the fridge and non-perishables in the pantry. Imagine how frustrating it would be to work in a kitchen that had these mixed up – dishes in the fridge; cutlery in various cupboards; and perishables in the pantry! This disarray is what students with learning disabilities may feel when trying to capture thoughts and ideas for an assignment. Using a graphic organizer helps to keep ideas and information visually sorted and makes written assignments much easier to begin and complete.
The first step in using a graphic organizer is to understand the purpose of the assignment. For example, a novel study may require students to identify specific characters, plot themes, and make personal connections. While reading their novel, students can use a graphic organizer to sort and store information for future reference.
Some graphic organizers are used to support specific concepts. To choose the best organizer for the task, students should consider the following questions: “What does this activity ask me to do?” or “What is the learning goal of this activity? Although there are many commercially produced graphic organizers available, students can easily create their own. A graphic organizer can be as simple as dividing a piece of paper into parts, labeling each part, and adding the information.
Below are some common types and examples of graphic organizers: