How to Use Graphic Organizers in Speech with Struggling Readers

Some students hate using graphic organizers because they think that they are doing double the work! However, we as SLPs know that graphic organizers are a great way to provide a visual aid and organize information. But how do we get our struggling readers on board and using graphic organizers effectively? Let’s take a look at some ways to help our students to use graphic organizers! 

Learning Their Function 

Students can’t use graphic organizers well if they don’t know how to use them. If you give a student a Venn diagram or a timeline and they don’t understand what it is for, all they will see are shapes on a page. You can practice using different types of graphic organizers with students in fun ways so that they can realize what different types of graphic organizers are for. 

  • Students can fill in a timeline graphic organizer with events from their own life. 
  • Students can use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their favorite TV show, sports team, or even two of their friends or siblings! 
  • Students can learn to use an idea web by describing something familiar, like their house or school. 
  • Students can learn to use a cause-and-effect chart by cutting out pictures of causes and their effects or drawing pictures of causes and effects. 

Practicing with a Shorter Text

Once students understand the function of different types of graphic organizers, then they can begin to practice with a short text. Find a text that is explicit and goes along with the graphic organizer that the student is using. For example, a compare and contrast passage should be paired with a Venn diagram. 

Graphic Organizers with a Grade Level Text

When students know what graphic organizers are for and how to use them, they can begin to use them for grade-level texts. Here are some practical tips on how to best help your struggling readers use graphic organizers effectively with grade-level texts. 

  • Give them clues in the organizer. Pre-write sentence starters, a few bullet points, or key vocabulary into the organizer prior to giving it to the student. This will give them a starting point when completing the graphic organizer. 
  • Use sticky notes! While they read, students can mark parts of the text that they want to include on the graphic organizer with sticky notes. After reading, they can go back, copy the information they want to include onto the sticky note, and then place the sticky note onto the graphic organizer. 
  • Have students write phrases or keywords, rather than focusing on writing in complete sentences. 
  • Encourage students to draw symbols or objects on their organizers if they like to draw and find it easier than writing. 


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