Integrating Graphic Organizers into Reading Vocabulary Instruction


Welcome to the discussion thread for the LINCS Community webinar, Integrating Graphic Organizers into Reading Vocabulary Instruction.  The webinar will be presented by Patty Graner, who directs the professional development network for the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.

The event is co-hosted by the Reading and Writing group and the Disabilities in Adult Education group and will take place on August 20, 2014 at 3 p.m. EDT. This event will provide an integrated, coherent overview of the graphic organizer and its application in teaching reading vocabulary. For more information, be sure to check out the featured resource from the LINCS Resource Collection: Graphic Organizers: Power Tools for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities. You can also learn more about what graphic organizers are and how your peers in the field have utilized them in this previous discussion thread.


I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with people in the webinar on August 20. I noticed that several participants shared that they are using a variety of structures and graphic tools for studying and practicing vocabulary. Would you please share those here? A larger group will benefit from your practices!

Hello Dr. Graner,

Thank you for your webinar.  Can you please respond to the questions that I asked yesterday during the webinar?  In your opinion, why is the use of graphic organizers an effective strategy for adult students with disabilities?

Thanks, in advance, for your response.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME


Hello Rochelle, Thank you for asking your question again. First, my experience in teaching young adults who are challenged with the requirement to learn a large number of vocabulary in their education, has been very positive. The recommendations listed for effective vocabulary learning are especially useful for older students who arrive in school or in their job training with limited vocabulary background, and these may be students with disabilities.  Putting many of these pieces together into a cohesive study routine or study strategy can make adults (young and older) more successful in their schooling and in their job pursuits.

In the webinar, I listed five features for direct vocabulary instruction based on recommendations by many experts in vocabulary.

1.Teachers should explain meaning. This should happen multiple times and be connected to the content and in context. 2.Various contexts for particularly vocabulary requires sufficient examples – playing with language for instance.
  •  An example of a word with many meanings that are useful to know, consider the many meanings of the word reconcile:
    • To agree or become friendly again  - She hoped to reconcile with her mother after not speaking for a long time.
    • To make sure numbers or facts match – You should reconcile your checkbook with your bank statement.
    • To Accept a fact or idea – I am reconciled to the fact that I need to work hard to earn my GED.
3.Generating your own examples and practicing on one’s own is important to becoming efficient 4.Being able to surface one’s thinking about vocabulary by using words in sentences demonstrates their thinking. Surfacing their approach so teacher can provide feedback. The example of Reconcile, above, illustrates this as well. 5.Drawing a picture is a way of visually connecting a word to its meaning and use.       When a strategy for studying vocabulary facilitates auditory and visual memory devices to learn and remember complex terms, power is added by employing these paths in tandem even when students prefer one over the other. Additionally, as Ellis (2001) points out, these are useful for recalling definitions for tests, actually 'constructing the devices adds even more power because the process focuses students' attention on understanding the critical features of the term and its meaning' (p. 2) enhancing their learning. Does this information help?


Thanks for the quick response. Yes, your information was very helpful.

During our follow-up discussion, I want to expand the discussion beyond vocabulary, especially for Disability Group members who were not able to attend your webinar or ask any questions yet.  

In my experience, I have found that the use of graphic organizers ("structured overviews") is an effective reading comprehension tool especially for students with Learning Disability, English language learners, and all other learners as well.  The strategy allows students to visually access and understand information.  You can think of them as visual maps; "visual representations of information from a text that depict the relationships between concepts, the text structure, and/or key concepts of the text."  

For our group members in the Disabilities and English Language groups, I can recommend a research study by Jessica Lynn Wells Miranda at the University of Hawaii at Manoa entitled "Effect of Graphic Organizers on the Reading Comprehension of an English Language Learner with a Learning Disability."  It will go more deeply into the use of graphic organizers within the components of reading.  It is online and can be accessed for free at >

I hope that our group members take the opportunity to ask questions of our expert, Dr. Patty Graner.

Has anyone used graphic organizers with adult education students that have LD?

Thanks so much,

Rochelle Kenyon, SME



We have many teachers in our adult ed programs in Arkansas who effectively use graphic organizers with their students who have learning disabilities.  The students report that the visual/graphic depiction of their thoughts is helpful for organizing/constructing their writing as well as helping with reading comprehension. When used for reading comprehension, the students must condense and paraphrase what they're reading to fit into the graphic organizer format, which can dramatically increase focus, comprehension and retention. By the time they've mapped out what they're reading in their own words, they have a much better grasp of the main idea as well as what they considered to be the most important supporting details.

If your student is not familiar with using graphic organizers, there are lots of free apps for that.  Here are 3 of them:



There are also some free websites for creating graphic organizers.  Here are 3:



Of course, if the student needs a more tactile-kinesthetic approach, it's still good to draw or make their own with markers and colored paper.  If you actually cut out the shapes, they can literally move their thoughts around until it makes the best sense to them.


Hi Patti,

Thanks for these great resources.  For teachers who have never used graphic organizers with your students, you will find these to be effective tools.

Here are a few more that I am familiar with:


Inspiration Software; ( free trial at )

Education Place:  ( 38 free graphic organizers that can be print )

LearnNC:  (explanation on how to use graphic organizers with samples)


Do any of our members have favorite graphic organizers that they can share?



Rochelle Kenyon, SME



Hi group users,

For those group members that were registered for the webinar on graphic organizers, you should have already received an email message that included the actual presentation slides for your future reference.  Also, for those that did not get an opportunity to attend the webinar, a video of the presentation is now available on YouTube.   

You can watch the video at 

Rochelle Kenyon, SME



Someone interested in using graphic organizers might like to view the webinar that Patty Graner presented last week.

This link will allow you to view the webinar and then we're interested in hearing from you about additional questions or comments. Your feedback would be helpful as we plan additional activities that support you with your instructional activities.

Kind regards,

Reading and Writing Community Moderator