Monday / April 22

To Use Graphic Organizers with English Learners, Develop Vocabulary!

We all know the many benefits of using graphic organizers. These literacy-building tools provide visual images of information, organize concepts and sub-concepts, and focus student attention on key ideas and terms. Graphic organizers serve as a guide before and during student reading and listening. They facilitate student responses for writing, speaking, and performing. They frequently serve as study tools to improve retention. And, they can serve as a way for English learners with lower levels of English proficiency to demonstrate what they know. As interesting, highly illustrated, and easy-to use as they may be, graphic organizers present challenges for English learners who have not developed related academic vocabulary.

Listed below are four common graphic organizers with examples of corresponding related vocabulary that English learners will need in order to understand text and speech as well as to express their ideas orally and in writing. They organize information in the following ways:

  • Compare and Contrast,
  • Cause and Effect,
  • Conceptual Hierarchy, and
  • Cycle

The terms for the graphic organizer and words you select for your students will depend on their age level, level of proficiency, and the complexity of the content. For example, you may call the “conceptual hierarchy” a “tree” and use a vertical presentation. Pre-teaching the vocabulary will empower students to engage in critical thinking. They will construct and apply their knowledge on the way to meeting academic standards.

Graphic Organizer

Click here to download this chart and add your own ideas!

You will see the vocabulary words can be used in all subject areas. With time, I’m sure you will personalize this list by adding more words and your favorite graphic organizers!

Written by

Ellen Kottler, Ed.S., has been a teacher for over 30 years in public and private schools, alternative schools, adult education programs, and universities. She has worked in inner-city schools as well as in suburban and rural settings. She was a curriculum specialist in charge of secondary social studies and law-related education for one of the country’s largest school districts. Ellen is the author or coauthor of several books for educators, including Secrets for Secondary School Teachers: How to Succeed in Your First Year, On Being a Teacher, Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers, Counseling Skills for Teachers, English Language Learners in Your Classroom: Strategies That Work, Secrets to Success for Science Teachers, Students Who Drive You Crazy: Succeeding with Resistant, Unmotivated, and Otherwise Difficult Young People, and The Teacher’s Journey.

She teaches secondary education and supervises intern teachers at California State University, Fullerton.

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