Using Graphic Organizers to Write

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12395

"Graphic organizers" are not tools you use to put your pictures in order; they are diagrams that help you organize your thoughts when you are preparing to write. Choose the one that is right for you!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


The picture above is not a solar eclipse about to happen; it's a Venn diagram. If you have difficulty organizing your thoughts when writing, and have little slips of paper with notes all over the place, you can benefit from one of the graphic organizers you are about to meet!

When writing, it is always important to spend time organizing your thoughts and ideas.

Taking the time to organize your thoughts will ensure that you have plenty of ideas for writing a paper, and that your ideas are organized and make sense. Graphic organizers are great tools for organizing your ideas before you begin writing. There are many different graphic organizers used by writers, but five of the most common include:

  1. Venn diagram
  2. Cluster
  3. T-Chart
  4. Describing Wheel
  5. KWL Chart

In this lesson, you will learn when to use each of these graphic organizers and how to use them to improve your writing.

Venn Diagram

The graphic organizer pictured at the beginning of the lesson is called a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is used to compare and contrast information.

  • The right side of a Venn diagram lists information that is unique to one topic.
  • The left side of a Venn diagram lists information that is unique about a different topic.
  • The center section, where the circles overlap, is used to list information that the two topics have in common.

Typically, the information in a Venn diagram is related in some way. For example, the Venn diagram below compares and contrasts dolphins and sharks, that are both animals found in the sea. Comparing a dolphin to a teapot would not work with a Venn diagram because those things do not have anything in common.

Venn diagram example

While the Venn diagram pictured above is used to compare and contrast two topics, the following Venn diagram can compare and contrast three topics. It is called a triple Venn diagram.

  • Like the regular Venn diagram, each circle is used to write information that is unique to a topic.
  • Places where two circles overlap are used to record information the topics of the two circles have in common.
  • The center space, where all three circles overlap, is used to record information all three topics have in common.

How do you think you can use a Venn diagram or a triple Venn diagram to plan and organize your writing? Share your thoughts with your teacher or parent.

triple Venn diagram

A Venn diagram is a great graphic organizer to use if you plan to write about two or more related topics, such as two presidents, animals, holidays, or places to take a vacation. A Venn diagram can help you clearly see what is unique about each topic and what the topics have in common, making it easier to organize this information in your writing.


A cluster is used to organize your thoughts around a particular subject. The following cluster organizes information about going to the beach.

  • The topic, “Beach,” is written in the circle in the middle of the cluster.
  • Then, there are lines drawn to other circles, describing activities you can do at the beach (yellow circles).
  • Lines from those circles lead to other circles with specific details about those activities.

A cluster can have as many or as few circles as you need to organize your thoughts and ideas. How do you think you can use a cluster to help you plan and organize your writing?

cluster example

A cluster is a great graphic organizer for helping you develop the main ideas and supporting details for your writing. The cluster above could be used to help you write about a recent trip to the beach. Each of the yellow circles would represent the main ideas of your body paragraphs, and the white circles represent the supporting details you would use in those paragraphs.

Clusters can also be used to help you record sensory details about a topic that can be used in your writing. For example, you could write sensory notes about swimming in the ocean, such as cool water, when it dries it leaves a sticky feeling on your skin, and it smells salty.


A T-chart is given its name because it looks like the letter "T." The following information shows the problems and solutions for getting caught in the rain. As you can see in the T-chart below, each side of the chart is labeled (“Problem” and “Solution”). Then, all the problems are listed on one side and the solutions are listed directly across from the problems on the other side. How do you think you can use a T-chart to help you plan and organize your writing?

T-chart example

T-charts are great graphic organizers for recording the following information:

  • cause and effect
  • pros and cons
  • problems and solutions
  • vocabulary and definitions

Describing Wheel

A describing wheel is shaped like a wheel. In the center, a topic is written. Then, brief details used to describe the topic are written around the outside. The following describing wheel is used to record details about baking a berry pie. As you can see, the author used his or her senses to develop a description of the pie. How do you think a describing wheel could be used to help you plan and organize your writing?

describing wheel example

Like clusters, describing wheels are great for helping you recall sensory details that are used to make your writing more descriptive. The more sensory details you include in your writing, the more realistic it will seem and the more engaged the reader will become.

KWL Chart

A KWL chart is used to help you organize what you already know and what you need to find out as you are researching a topic. K stands for “Know,” W stands for “Wants to Know,” and L stands for “Learned.” The K and W sections should be completed before you begin performing research.

The K section is used to record information you already know about a topic, and the W section is used to record questions you have about the same topic. The L section should be completed during or after your research. As you research the topic, write the answers to your questions and any new information you find in the L section.

The following KWL Chart records what a writer already knows and wants to know about the solar system. As they research the solar system, they will complete the L section. How can you use a KWL chart to plan and organize your writing?

KWL chart example

KWL charts are great to refer to when you are writing nonfiction, especially if you are writing about a science- or social studies-related topic. These graphic organizers will help you determine what additional information you need to research and, when completed, will provide you with facts to include in your writing.

After you have spent time reviewing each of the five graphic organizers, write your responses to the following questions. You can write your responses on a separate piece of paper or type them in the space provided:

When you are finished, share your written responses with your teacher or parent. Discuss what stage in the writing process you would use these graphic organizers.

Then, move on to the Got It? section to practice identifying different graphic organizers and the situations where you would use them.

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