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Write While You Read: Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension

written by: Jessica Cook • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 2/14/2012

Help yourself understand the things you read by using graphic organizers to take notes, order your ideas, or prepare to write an essay or reader response to a piece of literature or a classroom text book. This technique works for any subject area or topic where you have to read a text.

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    Do you ever get bored while you're reading? Do you ever find yourself having to read a paragraph twice because you "zoned out" the first time and didn't remember any of it afterwards? Do your teachers ask you to read books and write about them later, but you sometimes have a hard time remembering what you read? Then you need to start using graphic organizers for reading comprehension.

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    A Fancy Name for Good Notes

    The term "graphic organizers" is just a fancy way of saying "taking good notes." A graphic organizer is some type of chart, grid, or template that you use to write down information. You have probably used them in the past when your teacher assigned them to you: do the terms K/W/L chart, T-chart, or Venn Diagram ring a bell? If so, then you already know what a graphic organizer is.

    Maybe what you don't know is that you don't have to wait for your teacher to tell you to use a graphic organizer. You can use one any time you want, and if you do it could really help you with your reading assignments.

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    Getting Started

    Before you start your next reading assignment, take a minute to figure out what you're supposed to be learning. Believe it or not, your teachers don't just assign reading tasks to fill time or give you something to do. They want you to get something out of the things that you're reading. Once you figure out what that is, you can plan to make a graphic organizer to help you do it.

    Let's say your teacher wants you to compare and contrast information you find in the text. Then you might try using a Venn Diagram. Or maybe she wants you to list quotes from the text to support specific ideas. In that case, a t-chart could be helpful. She might want you to list the main ideas in the text, in which case a flow chart or a word web might be the most useful tool for you. If you aren't sure about the best way to take notes while you read, ask your teacher to help you set up a graphic organizer on your paper before you read. She'll be impressed with your enthusiasm for the assignment.

    As you read the text, fill in your graphic organizer. If you include quotes from the text, be sure to write down the page number where you found them so you can find them again later if you need to. Keep your notes short, but to the point. This will make the graphic organizer useful to you later. As you're reading, make sure you write something down in your notes every other paragraph or so, just to be sure you're getting all the useful information out of the text.

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    Finish the Task

    After you finish reading, your graphic organizer should be fairly full. Now make sure you keep it, because you can use it later in a variety of ways, including:

    • - test review. Look over your graphic organizer before you take a test or quiz on that book, chapter, or topic.
    • - essay prep. Use your graphic organizer as the basic outline for an essay or other written response to your book or text. You've already got all the notes, so if your teacher asks you to write an essay you just have to polish it up and put it into paragraph form.
    • - conversation starter. If your class has a discussion about the text, you can use your graphic organizer to help you answer the teacher's questions. If you kept track of your page numbers, you can even reference them in your conversation to make you sound extra on-the-ball.
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    If you aren't sure where to get started with graphic organizers, visit Houghton Mifflin's Education Place website. They have a variety of graphic organizers available for you to print and use.

    If you prefer to work online, try ReadWriteThink's student interactives. You can type directly into their graphic organizers and then print them when you're finished.

Graphic Organizers

Get tips and tricks on using graphic organizers. Whether you're a student or a teacher, graphic organizers can be helpful tools for reading and writing in a variety of subject areas.
  1. Writing Tips: Graphic Organizers for Essay Writing
  2. Write While You Read: Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension