Curriculum Laboratory

Teaching Ideas Showcase: Graphic Organizers
(Getting Students To Process What They Read At A Deeper Level)

For further assistance in using any of the resources in the lab, please ask at the Curriculum Lab Information Services Desk

Teachers are always looking for concrete ways to improve student comprehension of what they read, including the non-fiction titles they read. Graphic organizers provide teachers with simple tools to do this. Some advantages of using graphic organizers are:

  • When asked to respond to a text, many students find it daunting to capture the thoughts and ideas from their reading, if they are faced with a blank piece of paper in front of them. Graphic organizers can support and guide users when they analyze a text, by giving them a series of cues to start their analysis.
  • They can be used in a wide variety of grades.
  • They can be re-used in a wide variety of subjects.
  • Re-using the organizers helps students internalize the questions the organizers ask, thus improving future independent comprehension for the students.
  • If students are struggling with comprehension, they give the students simple models for success, and can increase their motivation to read and interact with future non-fiction books and readings.

Many types of graphic organizers for non-fiction can be found at, or at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Education Place (Graphic Organizers).

Alberta Education's, "English As a Second Language Kindergarten to Grade 9 Guide to Implementation" contains ready-to-use graphic organizers for use with fiction and non-fiction literature. They are found in Appendix 5, organized under these themes: Ideas and Concepts, Collecting Information, Problem Solving and Decision Making, and Writing.

(The following activity sheets, and more, can also be found on the webpage called, "Stories In Stone, Travels In Time: A Geology Detective Hunt and Time Travel Adventure.")

KWL Activity Sheet


Most of us are familiar with the KWL chart, used for introducing and concluding a teaching unit or reading. It has the sections, "What I Want to Know," What I Want to Learn," and "What I Have Learned."


  "Frayer" and
"Verbal and Visual Word Association (VVWA)" Graphic Organizers


The "Frayer" Model is a great activity sheet for enhancing vocabulary comprehension, and for short reports on any topic. It provides students with a deeper understanding than just a definition, as one section of the model covers what does NOT fit the definition. The "VVWA" model simply adds a diagram of the topic or definition to the activity sheet.

A simple chart (and class activity) that can be used for note taking and review, in any subject, at any grade. After a lesson or a reading the students have completed, they can list the main ideas on the left hand side of the t-chart. The students can then fill in any details, examples, definitions or facts that they remember on the right hand side of the chart. Once they have filled out what they can on their own, you can have them share one detail with another classmate, before you share the ideas as a class.

Mini-Research Projects


Some ideas to get students to do some mini-reports, without developing too many ulcers. This activity booklet includes such ideas as:

  • "What's Interesting?/What's Important?" -- Includes guidelines for students for determining what is important from what they have read.
  • "Be An Investigative Reporter" -- Includes an activity sheet divided into, "Who?", "What?", "When?", "Where?", "How?" and "Why?"
  • "Keyword Capture"
  • "No Written Book Reports, Please!"
  • "Written Book Reports, Please! (My Awesome Book Report)"


Poetry Forms


The Poetry Unit and Activity Booklet on this website includes instructions so students can write these types of poems: acrostic, simile, concrete, cinquain, alliteration, Kennings or riddle, haiku, 5-senses-riddle, If-I-Were poems. All of these poetry forms could be used individually to encourage positive and creative student interaction with the non-fiction books or readings, on almost any topic, and in a wide variety of grades.


Produced by:  Bill Glaister, December 2008. Updated February 2010.