Thursday, March 8, 2012

Graphic Organizers- for research and writing

When I was a kid learning to write papers, we learned outlines.  You know, the old fashioned:

I. Introduction
II. Topic

     A. Idea 1
     B. Idea 2
          1. note 1
          2. note 2


I would take the outline and block it out on 3”x5” notecards and put them on a pinboard.  As a homeschooling mom, that is what I have been teaching.  So imagine my surprise when I learn that I’m “supposed” to be teaching about Cause and Effect Charting, Time Line Graphic Organizing, Brainstorming Webs, Venn Diagramming, KWL Charting, Spider Mapping and Herringboning.

What the heck are these things?!?!

As I sat here getting irritated at having to make it more complicated than it was for me, I realized that there really is nothing “uncomplicated” about using Roman numerals, capital letters, lower case letters and regular numbers in a specific sequence OR YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

So then I thought, maybe I could use some of these graphic organizing techniques in my own writing.  (Once again, homeschooling teaches me more than it does the two urchins running around here.)

So here are my summaries of the different graphic organizing tools:


KWL Chart- has three columns.  K= KNOW, W=WANT TO KNOW, L=LEARNED.  You basically brainstorm what you have into the chart and use that to document your research.  This seems just like what we do in genealogy…
Using a K-W-L chart, students can prepare to research a topic and use it to track information gathered along the way. This tool will help students confirm what they know about a topic and encourage them to think about how they want to focus their research. Ask students leading questions for each column of the chart, such as, “What do you already ‘know’ about this topic?”  “What things do you ‘want’ to learn about the topic, so you can focus your research?” and  “What did you ‘learn’ from doing your research?” from

Venn Diagram- allows you to compare and contrast ideas or items using intersecting circles. 
Venn diagrams or set diagrams are diagrams that show all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets (aggregation of things). From

Timeline- As genealogists, we are used to timelines in our research, but what about our writing?  Timelines are helpful for organizing our ideas and events chronologically and to explore sequencing of events.

Cause and Effect Diagram- helps to put events into a sequence of effects vs. random.  This could help us when looking at historical events in relation to our genealogy.

Spider Map/Brainstorm Web- The spider map works a lot like my old outlines.  Idea surrounded by supporting ideas.  Only without the Roman numerals…

Herringbone-Like the bones of a fish, the ideas support the center.  Also much like the outline, but perhaps better used in brainstorming.


Scrivener- writing program that also has graphic organizing tools. brainstorming application 
Text2MindMap- takes your outline and turns it into a graphic 
ReadWriteThink- graphic map 

Teacher tools we might like:

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