Online Graphic Organizers for Use With Special Education Students

Graphic organizers are a popular educational tool.  They help students to visually display, interpret, and understand complex topics.   They also assist in reading comprehension by allowing the students to track main ideas, facts, plot, setting, and characters.  The most popular graphic organizers are Venn Diagrams, Concept Maps, KWL Charts, checklists and story maps.  For special education students, these tools can help them to express and show an understanding of concepts that may be difficult for them to show with traditional written or essay assessments.

Finding, modifying, and printing graphic organizers is easily accessible via the Internet.  They can easily be adapted to assist all type of learners, topics, and desired learning outcomes.  Many sites now also allow students to create their own graphic organizers that they can edit, print and share via the Internet.

Printable Graphic Organizers

The Education World site offers a variety of free printable graphic organizers, including Venn Diagrams, Comparison Charts, Concept Maps, Fishbone Diagrams, Family Trees, KWL Charts, Life Cycle Charts, Spider Maps, Story Maps, and T-charts.  The files you load from this site are available in Word format.  When you select the style of graphic organizer that you would like to print, you have the ability to edit the titles, headings, subheadings or to add or delete information as needed. The files you create can also be saved for later use.

On the Project Based Learning Checklists for Teachers site, teachers can create their own project-based learning checklists.  These checklists can be used by the students as guidelines to teacher expectations and learning outcomes for their projects.  This site is really great because you can create checklists for writing, science, oral presentations, and multimedia for a variety of different grade levels.  To create a checklist, you include the teacher name, the title for the project, category selections, and then additional details.  The additional details can be added from a drop-down list or typed directly in.  When completed, you just have to print and photocopy the checklist for your students to follow.

Worksheet Works is a beta website that has free printable organizers, including  clocks, fishbones, t-charts, y-charts, YWLs, Venn Diagrams, pies, stars, cycles, PMIs, and decision-making charts.  When you select the type of chart you would like to print, you are taken to a page of options where you can add titles and headers that are appropriate for your lesson.  You can also choose the size of paper that you would like to print on.   You then create your worksheet and it is available to download, print and save print as a PDF file.

Online Graphic Organizers

Bubbl.us is a free online brainstorming application.  Students can create concept maps (webs) or flow charts using this program.  There are options available to save and to print your maps.  The program is kid friendly with fun colors and transitions.  The program allows students to create as many bubbles as they need to complete their project.  They can connect and move the bubbles in various ways.  Bubbles can be connected using either arrows or lines, and can be moved above, below, or at the same level as other bubbles in the maps.

Read Write Think has a section of their website that includes student “interactives.”  These are interactive online applications where students make and complete their own graphic organizers.  The teacher should provide the link for the interactive application the students should be using based on the lesson they are to complete.  Then the work is up to the student!  There are interactive activities including creating Venn Diagrams, writing aids, comparison and contrast tables, plot development charts, timelines, and story maps.  Many of their “interactives” involve either reading or writing and would be great for Language Arts and Social Studies courses.

While Class Tools does not have the fancy and easy-to-read format of some of the other sites I have mentioned, they have some of the most fun and interactive graphic organizers.  Along the right-hand column of the site you will find a list of the different organizers and activities.  Students can choose the graphic organizer style, add the required information for the assignment, and then either save the file, embed it into a webpage, or print.  There are also many other fun review games, activities, and classroom management tools on this site you should definitely check out.

Additional research-based data regarding the successful use of graphic organizers with special education students can be found here.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon

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