Graphic organisers

Graphic organisers are also sometimes knows as key visuals. They are great for EAL learners because they provide them with an opportunity to access curriculum content and they support the development of academic language. Graphic organisers provide a means whereby learners can organise their thinking, before going on to express their thoughts in English.

Graphic organisers enable learners to acquire vocabulary in context, so they are excellent for enabling teachers to keep the cognitive challenge of a task high while keeping the language accessible.  

Types of graphic organisers

There are many different types of graphic organiser. Some of the main ones are:

  • table, chart, grid, matrix
  • Ishikawa diagram (fishbone), Venn diagram
  • bar chart, pie chart, pictogram
  • pyramid, ladder
  • cycle, flow chart, timeline
  • concept map, KWHL (what I know, what I want to know, how I am going to find out, what I have learned), web (star)

Practical ideas for using graphic organisers

  • Top tip: Choose a graphic organiser that is fit for purpose
  • To consider: How would the learners benefit from using a particular graphic organiser?

Graphic organisers are useful for EAL learners to be able to access information and then focus on transferring it into speech or writing. Also they can be used the other way round, with learners being asked to read a text and create a graphic organiser using the information in it. It is important to think about the language function you would like the learner to practise and then decide which kind of graphic organiser is the most appropriate:

  • Explaining cause and effect: to help learners explain and answer ‘Why?’ questions, useful graphic organisers include Ishikawa diagrams and tables.
  • Prioritising: to provide scaffolding for a discussion activity where learners are asked to rank different ideas in priority order, useful graphic organisers would be pyramids, ladders or diamond shapes.
  • Sequencing: to provide scaffolding for learners to retell stories, recount events or describe processes, flow charts, timelines, cycles and action strips are useful.
  • Classifying: to enable learners to discuss the characteristics or properties of objects/substances/ animals etc., useful graphic organisers include tables and matrices.
  • Comparing and contrasting: useful graphic organisers include Venn diagrams, fact files and grids.

Good for EAL, Good for All: Can I use graphic organisers with the whole class?

Yes, graphic organisers support everyone. They enable learners to focus and be involved in whole class learning. They help learners with language and content in different subjects and they support learners’ conceptual development.


graphic organiser for EAL


Graphic organisers - Word