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PsPrint's Guide to Graphic Organizers - Free Templates and More

Although we may not realize it, many people work best when they can visually arrange thoughts or ideas. Graphic organizers are a method of accomplishing exactly this. They are versatile enough to be used for varying purposes and by all ages, from students to professionals. Graphic organizers help to sort and link ideas and change the way in which we think. Let’s have a look at several types of graphic organizers.

Decision-making model When using a decision-making model, the problem is outlined at the top, with solutions listed under it. Following this are the pros and cons of each solution. This method helps to assess ideas by examining all aspects. The outcome is that the user can make an informed decision about which solution is best.

Main idea pyramid Main idea pyramids break down different levels of ideas. At the tip is the primary idea, and it is elaborated at each level below. Main idea pyramids work well for analyzing large ideas. Since the method is somewhat elementary, however, it is better suited to younger students.

Question/answer chart A question/answer chart simply outlines a main topic and lists several questions below it. The user then answers the questions as a way of exploring the topic. Question/answer charts help by introducing new trains of thought. The downside is that the questions provide the prompts, so it limits the user’s input.

Venn diagram Venn diagrams involve overlapping circles, where each circle represents a single idea or subject. The overlapping areas symbolize common aspects of the ideas. Venn diagrams are a very simple way of showing commonalities between various subjects, and they can be used to lead to further discussion.

Sequence chain Sequence chains use a strictly linear approach to outlining ideas. The content can be filled in as text or even images. A sequence chain is a great way to determine the progression of ideas. Since it’s so linear, it does not offer a way to explore ideas that do not fall within the sequence.

Flow chart The beauty of flow charts is that while they are linear, they are also extremely versatile. A flow chart can be circular or vertical. It is much more interactive than sequence chains since it allows users to follow a sequence based on choices. Flow charts are great for outlining a process or method.

Character map Character maps are used to explore a character in a story. The prompts allow people to think about aspects of a character that they might otherwise gloss over. Character maps are also useful for writers. They can be used to flesh out all aspects of a character to make it more realistic.

Story map Story maps are a little similar to character maps, but instead of focusing on characters, they address the whole story. This includes plot, themes and other literary elements. For use in classes, it is best to hold a discussion session after working on the story maps. Writers can use story maps to help outline the main parts of a novel.

Spider map A spider map links different ideas to one main source. It is so called because the map itself resembles a spider, with each idea representing a “leg.” Spider maps are helpful for breaking down different ideas stemming from one subject. It is best suited to younger groups since it is a rather basic type of graphic organizer.

Cloud map Cloud maps are a more involved graphic organizer. They are excellent for brainstorming sessions as they help people to explore lateral thinking. The user starts with one central topic and gradually branches out with other related ideas.

Fishbone map Fishbone maps derive their name from the design of the organizer which resembles a fish skeleton. The head is where the primary idea is jotted down. Along the branched out bones, users can fill in additional related details. Fishbones typically require a discussion session to help further elaborate on the concepts.

Continuum map Continuum maps can also be thought of as timelines. They are used to plot ideas or events in sequence. Continuum maps are useful for organizing the chronology of events or to show cause and effect factors through a series of events. The disadvantage of continuum maps is that they tend to only outline factual information, so any further analysis would have to be done separately.