Visual Organizers

Examples of Visual Organizers

Visual organizers are simply drawings or formats used to represent information and to show relationships between ideas. Tables, charts, graphs, timelines, flowcharts, diagrams, and webs are all visual organizers.

The purpose of using visual organizers is to help you to think more critically and at higher levels of cognition than if you only focused on reading your text and taking notes in class. They help you to process the information at higher levels of comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. By thinking about and organizing information in this way, you help yourself to better understand and to recall the information.

Example: Time line

To summarize and show the major events that led up to the Revolutionary War, you might choose a time line.

Image of Timeline example

The following table shows how some of the most common visual organizers can be used for different types of conceptual relationships.

Graphing Various Types of Conceptual Relationships

Graphic TypeRelationships of ideas appropriate to this type graphicExamples:
HumanitiesSocial SciencePhysical/Life Science
(for a concept)
  • Definitions
  • Attributes
  • Examples
Characteristics of cubism in art Attributes of the demand curve in economics Attributes of sun spots in astronomy
(for hierarchies)
  • Classification
  • Analysis
  • Structure
  • Attributes
  • Examples
Family tree of the Tudor Monarchy in England Organization of the White House staff Classes of isotopes in chemistry
(for similar concepts)
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Attributes
Comparison of imagery in poems by Anne Sexton Comparison of the Viet Nam war to the 1988 war in the Persian Gulf Comparison of planets of the solar system
(for changes over time)
  • Process
  • Sequence
  • Cause/Effect
  • Chronology
Plot sequence of a novel Stages of Piaget's theory of cognitive development Process of cell division
(for visualizing a description)
  • Physical Structure
  • Descriptions of Places
  • Space Relations
  • Concrete Objects
  • Visual Images
Description of the Elizabethan stage set in a drama Description of a complex appartatus for studying eye movements in reading The structure of the epidermis and dermis, the two layers of skin

From: "Learning across the curriculum with creative graphing", by Linda Lee Johnson, The Reading Teacher, International Reading Association, 1990.

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