How to Use Graphic Organizers in the Writing Process to Improve Student Writing

I recently explained how to use graphic organizers to increase reading comprehension. I want to continuing sharing my love for those handy visual displays by also telling you how graphic organizers help students improve their writing and how to use them effectively in the classroom. 

Would you like to improve your students' writing skills? Using graphic organizers for prewriting during the writing process will make it easier for students to organize their thinking and strengthen their writing abilities as well. This post explains how.

Why are Graphic Organizers Important for Writing Instruction?

Graphic organizers are the most important step in the writing process because of the following reasons:

  • Graphic Organizers help students get their thoughts in order before they begin to compose a written piece.  
  • During the pre-writing stage of the writing process, they can help young writers generate ideas and plan out what will be written.
  • They allow students to organize information into logical patterns such as sequence, cause and effect, and problem – solution.  
  • Many children become frustrated when they make errors in their writing and need to erase their work. It makes the task feel overwhelming. Graphic organizers decrease the need to erase because writers approach the task with a plan.
  • When students use a grpahic organizer as a prewriting activity they are able to produce a more coherent and focused text.

How to Use Graphic Organizers to Improve Student Writing

Graphic organizers are tools for writing and just like the tools in a hardware store each serves a different purpose. Below are the 13 organizers I’ve used most often with my students and a brief explanation of how to use each graphic organizer to improve your students writing in specific areas.

Word Choices Charts

These charts help writers brainstorm strong vocabulary specific to the subject of their story or report.

Visualizing Organizers

These graphic organizers enable the students to gather and plan sensory details which makes their writing more descriptive.

Story Maps

These are the perfect tool for planning the key elements of their writing. It reminds them to think through the story and determine who will be their characters, where the story will take place, and identify the problem and the solution.

Sequencing Organizers

These help children to put the events of their story in a logical order. They can be structured as beginning, middle and end or as first, next, then, and finally. These organizers are typically used for narrative writing, but are also great for process writing as well.

Summarizing Organizers

These work much like the sequencing organizers. Teachers and students can determine which best meets their needs.

Character Webs

These help writers organize details about the character in a narrative writing piece. It focuses on character traits which describe a character based on his words and actions. These are great for helping the students to not only develop their characters on a deeper level, but also for teaching them how to strengthen their writing with “show don’t tell” details.

Would you like to improve your students' writing skills? Using graphic organizers for prewriting during the writing process will make it easier for students to organize their thinking and strengthen their writing abilities as well. This post explains how.

Main Idea and Details

These helps writers to identify the most important idea about a topic and then support that idea with key details.

Topic Webs

These allow writers to think about the most important ideas related to a topic. They usually begin as a brainstorm of all ideas and students can then narrow down their thinking from there.

Fact and Opinion Charts

These are key for supporting writers when they are composing persuasive or opinion pieces. They can use them to form their opinion and identify and organize the facts that support their thinking.

Two Column Notes

These are an effective, researched-based method of taking notes and organizing information as a student reads book or views videos on a topic. The notes can then be used to draft their own informative pieces.

Can, Have, Are Charts

These are the perfect tool for younger or struggling writers who need support in their writing. After categorizing facts about a topic into three columns, the child can then use the chart in sequence to form complete sentences (i.e. Bats can fly. They have wings. Bats are nocturnal.) or even write complete paragraphs by adding a topic and closing sentence.

Venn Diagrams

These help when writing compare and contrast essays. The students first use critical thinking skills to sort the information they have gathered. They then use the diagram as a guide to organize their writing.


These are also used to compare to topics. They are much like the Venn Diagram, but do not require the student to note similarities. They are a good starting point for writers to use prior to introducing the Venn Diagram.

To save teachers time and help them easily meet their students needs I have designed a Graphic Organizer to Improve Student Writing resource. It includes each of the organizers listed above.

I have also created a collection of graphic organizers for reading. The themed topics increase student interest and motivation. Best of all they can be used with ANY book so you can use the same organizer multiple times. Students may complete the same organizer, but with different books at their own reading level for simple modify learning. 

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