The joy of graphic organizers

Avantika Thakur

castle My third graders love their story time. The excitement of new characters and plots keeps them glued to the edge of their seats. From Dr. Suess’s creations to the classic fairytales, my students have grown to enjoy their stories. They are filled with questions and volunteer to give their answers readily. But stories can be used for more than just enjoying, they can be a crucial tool to teach important comprehension skills. Every teacher wants his/her students to ask more than just factual questions like, “What did the princess look like?” or “How did the character kill the monster?” We want them to comprehend the story and think critically, visualize the plot, and ask questions.

One way to do this is through graphic organizers. In simple words, a graphic organizer is a map for the story. It helps students understand and break down the text better. It can be in the form of simple questions or flow charts. While filling a graphic organizer, a student has to sort the relevant and irrelevant information from the story in accordance to the objective while listening to the story. Some of the common objectives can be – creating a story map, containing important factual details like characters, problem, solution; creating a sequence of the story; predicting what will happen next in the story; inferring how the character is feeling based on the actions of the character.

For instance, if the objective of the graphic organizer is to form the cause and effect relationship in the story, the students can listen to the story and at different stages, with the guidance of the teacher, fill out the following template to understand the cause and effect relationship:


There are many websites that provide templates for graphic organizers based on the objective you wish to teach. However, the teacher must have a clear and specific idea about the objective that he/she wishes to focus on. This way students not just listen and enjoy the story, but also apply their minds to the facts to fulfill the given objective.

The impact of this is better retention of the story, especially if you are reading a book to them, and clarity in thought. You can even create graphic organizers for writing. Before a student begins to write a story, you can ask them to create a small map of their plot with all the important components such as character, setting, problem and solution, etc. After a year of using graphic organizers, my students enjoy listening to stories even more and find the confidence to voice their opinions due to their new-found clarity in thought. Students are able to master and steer the direction of their understanding with the help of graphic organizers, making them happier and independent students.

The author is a graduate in law from National Law School, Bangalore. She taught second and third graders during the Teach for India fellowship in Delhi in a low income private school. She can be reached at

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