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5 Graphic Organizers to Fit Any Text, Part 1

Helping students make sense of reading one text at a time.

By Lani Aquino

Looking at the words on a page or the text on a screen can be overwhelming for some students. When difficult texts are assigned or approached in the context of entertainment or learning, nothing can derail the ability to complete the journey like the fear of not comprehending. In order to ensure students make the most of their reading experiences, having some go-to graphic organizers that can help them pull meaning from the text can be a lifesaver.

Graphic organizers are like to-do lists for learning. They allow students to capture elements of what they are reading and assimilate them in a way that can bring clarity to the big concepts. With the right organizers, challenging text can become much more approachable and learning and meaning get to take center stage. Whether the topic falls under the content realm of science, history, math, art, ELA, etc., these 5 organizers can be just what students need to positively and memorably highlight their reading journeys.

K/W/L Charts- These 3-columned charts are perfect for when a new topic is the subject of the text in hand. The K and W columns get completed before students even begin reading. The K-column gets filled with everything students already KNOW about the given topic. The W-column gets filled with information students WANT TO KNOW about the topic. This want for information can be guided by essential questions that are overarching within the unit of study. As students read, the L-column is completed to reflect what they LEARNED. This column can also be used to make note of any of their pre-reading knowledge that may have been inaccurate.

Connections Charts- One of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences that can come from reading is when readers are able to make connections to the text. With this graphic organizer, students are able to record connections and make impressionable associations with text that may have seemed out of their general scope of understanding. The 3 connections students should be looking to make are text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world. As connectivity helps students visualize how a new text is related to concepts and situations they already understand, challenging text can become more manageable.  

Flow Charts- Lots of fictional and non-fiction text is organized chronologically. Sometimes this ordering of steps and/or events can be difficult to follow when reading. Creating a flow chart where significant moments in a timeline can be recorded is a perfect way to keep all of the intricacies straight. Each event/step can be written in a block and then connected by arrows. In math and science texts, this can be especially helpful as readers may need a visual reference to follow when completing operations and/or directions outlined within a text.

Cause/Effect Charts- Similar to a flow chart with boxes and arrows, a Cause/Effect Chart lets readers make sense of the correlation between events within a text. Regardless of the subject matter being covered, these pairs of boxes connected by arrows can reveal a lot about the reasoning behind the sequence of events that unfold within a text. An excellent way to determine the mitigating factors surrounding historical events and/or plot development within fiction. Cause/effect relationships are also key elements to discover within scientific study.

5Ws & an H Charts- These 6-blocked charts allow students to view the text through an investigative lens. Readers determine the key elements of Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How? as they navigate the text. For texts that do not hold a traditional Who? component, personification can be applied to whatever element may be at the center of the big idea. This reading strategy lets students become reporters who are left to uncover the ins and outs of any text.

Graphic organizers are great tools for readers of any age. Having go-to templates for students to use can offer an extra confidence boost when challenging text is on the agenda. Sites like The Curriculum Corner and Literacy Leader have a host of printables to help students as they dive into text. Most organizers are basic enough in nature that a few instructional rounds can soon be followed by students replicating the templates themselves and possibly even refining them a bit to fit the reading needs of any text encountered.

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