Friday, April 25, 2014

Graphic Organizers in a Writer's Toolbox ~By Suzy Leopold

As an instructor, who has taught hundreds of students, throughout the years, teaching the subjects of reading and writing are my favorite.  During Writer’s Workshop lessons, my students are encouraged to use a Writer’s Toolbox.

As a writer, you too, need a Writer’s Toolbox.  What do you have inside your toolbox?

Graphic organizers are one of the many items that are included my students’ toolboxes as an instructional tool that aids in the writing process.  As a writer, I use graphic organizers as a visual aid that organize my thoughts and ideas as I write.  Being able to effectively communicate ideas onto a graphic organizer is an excellent starting point that enhances one's writing.
WHO?        Writers
WHAT?       Graphic Organizers/Webs/Mind 
                        Maps/Concept Maps
WHEN?       Prewriting or anytime during the 
                        writing process
WHERE?    In a Writer’s Toolbox
WHY? To improve on the task or skill of
HOW?          That is the big question and I have 
                        the answers.
Graphic organizers are outstanding instructional strategies that come in a variety of formats.  There are so many to choose from.  Each one serves as a tool that helps a writer to plan and organize ideas, brainstorm, research, problem solve, jot down thoughts or even identify the characters in a picture book story.  There are so many uses for this writing tool.  

Using a graphic organizer, during prewriting, becomes a diagram or a visual map that effectively organizes and enhances a story.  Just as the name implies, a graphic organizer provides organization through a visual along with coherence as a first step with the writing process.  Graphic organizers guide a writer's thoughts, while one writes, filling in the template, which then becomes a visual.  Having a visual guides the writer, throughout the writing process, allowing one to revise, edit and finally creating a polished manuscript that is ready to submit.

  • Venn Diagram:  Effective for comparing and contrasting as it visualizes similarities and differences.

  • Outline:  Helpful to a writer to ensure all points are well thought out and includes detail and support.

  • Ladder:  Using sentence strips or strips of paper, write a stanza, for a poem, on each one.  Revise and edit by moving the written lines around until your piece is polished and just right.
  • A Bubble Graph: An effective visual tool that guides and organizes a writer through brainstorming and pre-writing, while planning an outstanding story, that catches the reader's attention.

  • The Five Ws and How: Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How?

  • The Hamburger: Write a topic sentence, that includes a hook, followed by many details and a conclusion.

Meet Rob Sandersan author of a delightful picture book: Cowboy Christmas.

Rob, too, uses graphic organizers for his craft of writing, occasionally. Following are Rob Sander's thoughts on the use of graphic organizers when he writes:

"I imagine it's the teacher in me that always wants to find ways to present information in new ways, to create a new graphic organizer, to help with a problem, or plan step-by-step how to do something (and to teach someone else the steps).  In that spirit, I'll share once again the graphic organizer I designed to help plan a picture book.  I don't use this tool every time I write -- no tool is that wonderful -- but this graphic organizer has come in handy more than once."  May 2012

  • Rob Sander's Picture Book Graphic Organizer:

For more information about Rob Sanders, and his fantastic books, along with resources and critique services, check out Rob's web site, blog spot or you may consider following him on Facebook or Twitter.

Cowboy Christmas By Rob Sanders
Golden Books/Random House

Outer Space Bedtime Race By Rob Sanders
Release Date: Spring 2015, Random House Children's Books

Ruby Rose On Her Toes, By Rob Sanders 

Release Date: Winter 2016, HarperCollins

Web site:
Twitter: RobSandersWrite

Facebook: RobSandersWrites 

Thank you, Mr. Rob Sanders, for permission to share your thoughts and information about the use of graphic organizers to better our writing.
These examples are just a handful of suggested graphic organizers that you may want to consider. 

There are so many graphic organizers to choose from.  You, too, may find the usefulness of using graphic organizers with your writing.  As your ideas flow, jot down your thoughts onto a graphic organizer. Use pictures along with your words. Your thoughts and ideas do not need to be complete sentences at this point. Set your graphic organizer aside. Put it down and return to it later when additional ideas begin to flow from your heart and onto the template. As you continue through the writing process, use the graphic organizer to create a draft.  Write a second draft. Revise and edit.  Write a third draft. Revise and edit some more, and more, if need be. Soon you will create a final, polished copy that is ready for a critique group and/or several rounds of critiques, followed by the just right moment to submit. 

Consider adding several graphic organizers to your writer’s toolbox as you write.  


  1. Thanks, Suzy! Rob Sander's graphic organizer looks like a great way to approach the writing of a picture book -- I'll give it a try.

  2. You are welcome, Patty. Hope using the graphic organizer by Rob Sanders is an effective tool for your writing ideas and thoughts.

  3. I love graphic organizers and used them extensively as a teacher and helping kids do research in the library! Now why didn't I think to use them myself? TY.

  4. Your experience with using graphic organizers with students is appreciated, Kathy. Am pleased to know as a writer that you feel the tool may be something you will consider for your writer's tool box.

  5. I love using graphic organizers, too, and I've printed Rob's organizer as well. I alwas have to plot my stories ahead of time. Thanks, Suzy!

    1. Oh, that is so good to know, Tina. As an educator, I know how valuable graphic organizers are in the classroom. I do hope my thoughts and ideas about the use of the these visuals and templates will support us as writers. I am thankful that Rob Sanders generously allowed my post to link to his great post.

  6. Visual learning is what I love. Thank you Suzy.
    I can't get enough of taking notes in shapes.
    Venn diagrams are important for many people, but I'm not so great with them.
    Give me the hamburger/ice cream cone/ birdhouse & the like shapes.
    Thank you.

    1. Jan: Most people are visual learners. I believe I am a VAK [Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic] Learner. Using a Venn diagram is quite useful and easy to use to compare and contrast information. For example one could use the graphic organizer to compare to book characters. The large circles are used to list the CONTRASTS of a topic. For example, in one large circle, write the characteristics unique to HAROLD, from Harold and the Purple Crayon. Use the second large circle to jot down the characteristics of MAX, Where the Wild Things Are. The center portion of the Venn diagram, where the two large circle intersect are then use to COMPARE the two characters. Hope this gives you some ideas, Jan, that you can add to your list of useful visual organizers. ~Suzy

  7. Thanks Suzy. I'm already doing this and didn't know this is what it was called. :) Glad to know I'm on the right track.

    1. Tracey: Happy to know you found some affirmation as you use graphic organizers for a tool when you prewrite. Now you know the name of the tool in your toolbox. Thank you for checking out our GROG blog. Hope you stop by again soon. ~Suzy