Graphic Organizers Help ESL Students


Graphic organizers can be extremely helpful in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) students. These learning tools are available in a variety of designs and can serve purposes in many lessons. For example, a Venn diagram is a simple graphic organizer that consists of two large circles. The two circles partially overlap and share a space in the middle. ESL students, and others, who want to compare and contrast two characters in a book, often use this graphic organizer. The individual qualities of each character are noted in the outer portion of each circle while their commonalities are written in the shared portion. By using this graphic organizer, an ESL student is able to parse lesson material into understandable pieces. Some graphic organizers are specific to one type of academic subject while others can be used in a general way. The following contains information on the benefits of graphic organizers to ESL students as well as some examples of these valuable academic tools.

Benefits of Graphic Organizers to Students

First, a graphic organizer benefits an ESL student because it is a visual aid. The purpose of these classroom tools is to parse up information so it can be seen in an organized fashion. For instance, a graphic organizer called a KWL is often helpful to ESL students when organizing their thoughts. Generally, a KWL is a page divided into three sections with three headings. The three headings are questions: What do I know?, What do I want to know? What did I learn? Consequently, if an instructor begins a lesson on the food groups, ESL students can fill out the KWL to focus their attention on the significant points. A spider graphic organizer is another tool that may be useful to ESL students. This graphic organizer is made up of one circle with legs, or lines, attached to it. An ESL student may want to use a spider graphic organizer in a science class for a lesson on reptiles. The word snake could be written in the center circle of the organizer. On the legs, a student may list the characteristics of snakes such as cold-blooded, sheds skin, or lays eggs. Once again, the graphic organizer has enabled an ESL student to clearly view the important components of a lesson. A graphic organizer is also an effective study tool for an ESL student. He or she can go back to the graphic organizer paired with a particular lesson and review major ideas for a test. Furthermore, notes and significant vocabulary can be plugged into a graphic organizer as a way of convenient review.

Different Types of Graphic Organizers

There are other sorts of graphic organizers that have proven helpful to ESL students who are studying particular subjects. For example, a graphic organizer referred to as a web can be used to list examples of a particular concept or word. An ESL student could write the word transportation in the circle positioned in the middle of the web diagram. Then, he or she may write the words car, train, bus, and airplane in the circles attached to the center circle. This graphic organizer would allow the student an easy way to study modes of transportation. Alternatively, a graphic organizer in the shape of a timeline could help an ESL student study the events of the Civil War. Each event would be clearly noted in a chronological line. A stair step graphic organizer could be useful to an ESL student in distinguishing the main idea of a paragraph from its supporting details. This type of graphic organizer gives an ESL student a way to evaluate and absorb each section of a paragraph. ESL teachers and students should work together to determine the best graphic organizer to pair with each academic lesson.