Just Imagine

Graphic Organisers

This Strategy Has: Link

Graphic representations use linguistic and non-linguistic material to help students process material. They are useful for all students and may be especially useful for visual learners and those who find it difficult to process information that is presented in a linear format. Extensive research into the use of graphic organisers, especially those that expose text structure, Jiang & Grabe (2007), indicates that they can be effective in leading students to analyse structure and identify patterns, which in consequence deepens reading comprehension.

Graphic organisers can be used prior to reading when they are sometimes called ‘Advance Organisers’ (Anderson and Pearson 1984) but the greatest potential for enhancing reading comprehension is realised when graphic representation is used during and after reading.

Top tips for using graphic organisers to develop reading comprehension.

  • Students should draw their own organisers. Encourage them to develop their own versions once they have understood the basic structures.
  • Allow the organisers to be used flexibly –  students will need to  add or take away boxes, to increase or decrease the number of connections, as appropriate.
  • Vary the way the organisers are presented – make large versions for the classroom, use a variety of materials such as whiteboards and post-its.
  • Embed the use of organisers in the learning and teaching cycle. Revisit and add to the maps at different stages in the teaching cycle.
  • Use the organizers to generate high quality dialogue with students working in collaborative groups and whole class discussion.
  • Demonstrate how the organisers can be used to develop summaries, structure writing, organise information that may be poorly structured.
  • Don’t expect students to sit in silence and fill boxes.

Further Reading

Hyerle, D.N. (2009) Visual Tools for Transforming Knowledge into Information London: Sage

Hyerle, D.N (2011) Student Successes with Thinking Maps London: Sage

Jiang, X. & Grabe, W (2007) Graphic Organisers in reading instruction: research findings and issues in Reading as a Foreign Language 19, 1: 34-55

Novak, J. D. (1990). Concept maps and Vee diagrams: Two metacognitive tools for science and mathematics education. Instructional Science, 19: 29-52.

Petty, G (2009) Evidence Based Teaching a practical approach Oxford: Nelson Thornes

Zwaan R.A. (1994) Effects of genre expectations on text comprehension in Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory, Cognition 20: 920-33

Brainstorming webs

Why are brainstorming webs useful?

*Brainstorming is a technique used to encourage quick and creative thinking.  As a group activity it allows ideas to be pooled and knowledge is constructed socially (Mercer 1995).  It is an exploratory strategy which allows students to engage with a topic, bring their own knowledge to bear and take risks with ideas by avoiding self-editing too early in the process. This allows them to express both ‘good’ ideas, which might lead to fruitful avenues of enquiry, and ‘bad’ ideas, which may be discarded later. Allowing all ideas to be exposed provides an opportunity for critical thinking and group evaluation.

With regard to reading comprehension, brainstorming is most useful as a pre-reading strategy.  It can be used to activate prior knowledge, make connections with new learning and track the acquisition of new knowledge across a sequence of work.

Read more about using Brainstorming Webs to support reading comprehension.

Thinking Maps

What are Thinking Maps?

Thinking Maps devised by David Hyerle (2009, 2011)  are a set of eight diagrams, are based on eight cognitive skills. Thinking Maps are not task specific and consequently can be used consistently to develop a common language across the school.

By learning how each tool relates to a thought process students learn to independently select the maps they need and to use them inter-dependently.

Thinking maps are:

  • Graphically consistent
  • Flexible – additional bubbles can be added
  • Developmental – can be used at any age
  • Integrative – used across subjects
  • Reflective – learners learn how to assess what they are thinking, to share responses with their peers and teachers, can amend and add as they progress through a sequence of work


Examples of these maps and their use can be found in:

Hyerle, D. (2008) Visual Tools for Transforming Information Into Knowledge  London: Sage


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