Saturday, October 27, 2012

Graphic Organizers for Encouraging Reading Comprehension

One of the frequent issues that comes up in teaching L2 reading is finding effective ways to teach reading comprehension. Reading comprehension instruction is often limited to having students answer comprehension questions at the end of a reading passage. Sometimes teachers discuss with students how they got their answers, but even this only goes so far in helping students better comprehend texts. These methods of instruction are more in line with means of assessing students' reading comprehension as opposed to teaching them better ways of comprehending a text.

One way to encourage effective reading comprehension skill is through the use of graphic organizers (Jiang & Grabe, 2007, 2009). It takes some time to get used to creating graphic organizers (GOs) for specific texts, but once you get used to looking at text for the purpose of identifying the texts structure(s) within in it, this becomes quite routine. Many of the graphic organizers I've created tend to have a cause/effect or comparison/contrast structure. And often times the cause/effect text structure can be combined with a problem/solution structure, since problem and solutions often include cause and effects.

Below are some example GOs:


Timeline Graphic Organizer: Gets students to scan for details and see how sequencing is an important text structure in describing a historical timeline of events


Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer: This GO has students identify some of the causes and effects from the article. It also gets them to focus on how the problems of ocean noise are related to the harmful effects to whales.

These graphic organizers also function in the awareness raising of ways that texts are organized (Jiang & Grabe, 2009). Students' attention is directed towards understanding the ways that main ideas connect with supporting details through the graphic representations of the text. I have also found it necessary to include partially completed GOs to aid in effective scaffolding. This saves the teacher time in having to model how to fill out certain parts of the GO. And once students have become familiar with using GOs they can be given out after an initial reading of a passage without having to provide much direction by the teacher.

Jiang and Grabe (2009) encourage teachers to make a bank of graphic organizer templates that can be adapted for use with specific texts. Such a bank can be simple to create after reviewing the resources below and some online resources from the website Instructional Strategies Online. Once a bank of GOs is created, more can be added to them as teachers work with different text types. 

Using GOs in your L2 reading class goes beyond the fall back technique of using reading comprehension questions to encourage the development of students reading comprehension skills. 


Jiang, X., & Grabe, W. (2007). Graphic organizers in reading instruction: Research findings and issues. Reading in a Foreign Language, 19(1), 34-55.
Jiang, X., & Grabe, W. (2009). Building reading abilities with graphic organizers. In R. Cohen (Ed.), Explorations in second language reading (pp. 25–42). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

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