The cause and effect diagram, or “Ishikawa diagram” named after its creator, it is also known as “fishbone chart”, due to its shape similar to a fish skeleton. It is composed of a box (head), a main line (spine) and 4 or more lines that point towards the main line, forming an angle of aproximately 70º (main fishbones). These have in turn two or three leaning lines (fishbones), and so on and so forth, depending on the degree of complexity of the information.


This tool from the group of the Graphic Organizers allows to organize a series of events or milestones on a certain topic, in a way that one can clearly vizualize the chronological relationship between them.

In order to create a timeline about a specific topic, one should identify the events and the dates (starting and ending dates) in which these occurred; organize the events in a chronological order; select the most important events in order to establish the appropriate time intervals; group the similar events; determine the visualization scale to be used, and organize the events in the diagram.


A big progress in the way of organizing the information, at the beginning of the last century, was the use of the bracket map. In reality, until no long ago they were the only used diagrams. These graphic organizers could be found in the following ways: as bracket diagrams, as hierarchical charts or as a matrix (summarizing chart). Through brackets is possible to represent the relationship between the concepts in a hierarchicall and horizontal way.


A flowchart, is a graphic organizer that allows to represent with some detai the sequence of a process. In other words, is a chart, in which the concepts show a cause-effect relationship or they are displayed as the action is being developed. These charts are very common in electronics, computer studies and mathematics.



The portfolio is a teching, learning and assesments method in which the students provide different types of material through which one can evaluate their abilities within certain discipline or study field. This material gives information about the process followed by the student, allowing him and others to see his efforts and successes in relation to the goals and evaluation criteria previously established.

The portfolio as a learning and teaching method, is based on the theory that sees evaluation as the way students think about their learning. The portfolio responds to two essential aspects of the learning-teaching process, it implies a whole methodology and learning strategy in the interaction between the teacher and the student; and in the other side, it is an evaluation method that allows one to put together and coordinate a combination of elements that work as a proof and provide an assesment close to the reality, which would be hard to get with other, more traditional evaluation methods which provide a more fragmented overview.


From the perspective of knowledge as information processing, specifically focussing on Ausubel’s significant learning, Novak (1988) introduces the concept map as an answer to significant learning.

Chart diagrams. Is a chart in the form of a square or rectangle, divided in rows and columns that allows at first sight to determine the characteristic similarities and differences between related topics; they are generally used to summarize very long topics, that when studied in an isolated way it would not be possible to establish relations between them.

Some of the most commons graphic organizers used, are:


It is a method which has the purpose of synthesizing, and at the same time, relating in a significant way the concepts of a certain topic. These maps show the concepts in a hierarchical way. The most general and inclusive concepts are placed at the beginning, followed by the linking words, that express the relations between the concepts. The reading of the relationship between two concepts, should result in a clause or phrase expressing an idea about the specific topic.


It shows the dependency relations between the ideas of a specific field. The data of a concept map can be moved to a hierarchy chart: the main topic is placed in the upper part, the sub-topics or supporting details (previously found in the boxes)  are placed in the second level; the details that support the sub-topics are placed in the third level, and so on and so forth.

These charts can be useful for the formative evaluation. These representations can be included in the tests, either in the form of items completion (presenting a diagram that needs to be completed in some way) or in the practice tests, in which the students could be asked to draw their own diagram.


The sequence diagram is an useful tool to represent a series of events that have a chronological order or to show the phases of a process.


This method provides a visual representation of analytical thinking, given that invites one to take a close look at the characteristics of a specific object. The main object is placed in the center, or axis of the wheel, and the main characteristics are written in the spokes of the wheel. The number of spokes can vary depending on the number of characteristics that define the object. The wheel can be drawn with a certain number of spokes and then tell the students to leave blank those that they canot fill.


A diagram is the simplified representation of a complex reality. Using it helps to understand, memorize and organize hierarchically the elements, relating them through conceptual links. It is a graphical and logical synthesis, that shows relationships and dependencies between primary and secondary concepts.

It is read from left to right. Once we get deeper into studying a topic and we have understood its meaning, we should create a diagram. This will allow us to access quickly the most significant aspects of the topic, suitably organized according to their importance.


This is a graphic organizer that shows in which way some pieces of information are related to their sub-cathegories. It provides a structure for the concepts and/or facts, created in a way that helps the students learn how to organize and priorize the information. The main concept is placed in the center of the spider map and the outward lines link it with other concepts that support details related to these concepts. The spider map is different from the Concept Map because it doesn’t include linking words that allow clauses between the concepts. It is also different from the mind map because the relationships are hierarchical. These charts are generally used for brainstorming, organizing information and analyzing the contents of a topic or story.


A comprehensive reading implies organizing the information in a way that allows the main ideas to stand out and let the person identify the existing relationships between the different pieces of information. I feel that, for the sake of clarity, it is important to define “idea” as noun that represents a thought or suggestion.

Various ways can be used to represent the information graphically: brainstorming charts, concept maps, diagrams, descriptive map, etc.

A good graphic organizer should inform not only about the relevant ideas, but also about the structure of the text, its construction, and the type of information it contains; whether it refers to descriptions, stories with a specific chronological order, to people with a causal role, or to generalizations accompanied by the corresponding examples, etc.

As long as the model used for the graphic representation is ordered, it facilitates, in the process of acquiring information, the efficient organization and storage of the data.

To create or develop the appropriate graphic organizer for the relational structure of the information of the text we need to work on, we can use as a reference one of the proposed models, or come up with a different one that we consider pertinent.

What’s the purpose of graphic organizers?

  • To compress the information
  • To get into focus the purpose of communication
  • To show the information collected
  • To show the information that still needs to be gathered
  • To locate the key concepts
  • To organize the information in a spatial way
  • To establish relations between ideas
  • To serve as mind maps

What do we need to plan a graphic organizer?

  • To determine the information to be included
  • To determine the information to be omitted
  • To choose a design format in accord with the content
  • To represent the relations between the ideas
  • To be able to express the essential content in the title


BRACE MAP: A synopsis is a summary of the main ideas of a text, exposed in an analytical way and organized in order to show the internal structure of the text. It is also possible to show through this diagram many texts that can be compared. Brace maps can be drawn through brackets which is the usual way, and in which the ideas are written as summaries or sections.

The brace or brackets map is the most appropriate one for those topics with many classifications and it has the advantage of being the most graphic of all, and therefore it facilitates the exercise of visual memory. The biggest disadvantage is that it puts all the text on the right side, making it necessary for the letters to be very small and making the text very compressed.

DIAGRAM: It is a graphic representation of a phenomenon, a fact, a piece of knowledge or a topic expressed through geometric figures. Due to its structure, a diagram facilitates the understanding and memorizing.

To create them, one needs to organize the concepts establishing the most number of relations. The main topic is placed on the middle and from there derive the divisions or secondary concepts. The diagram is used when a topic has secondary concepts that are related.

CONCEPT MAP: It is a graph of concepts that are related through truth values. The concept map is a working tool that helps dealing with concepts and representations. It helps expanding our knowledge on what we already know about a concept or topic; they are graphic representations with hierarchical structures that show how the clauses are related. Geometric figures such as ellipses are generally used to enclose the words or statements.

It is organized in hierarchical levels:


  • The first level represents the topic that will be summarized in the concept map,
  • The second level represents the definition
  • The third level represents the characteristics of the topic
  • The fourth level shows classifications
  • The fifth level shows examples

The basic elements are:

  • The Like regularities in the events or objects that are designed through a term. (Novak)
  • The Is the smallest semantic unit that posses a truth value. It consists of concepts and linking words.
  • The linking words. Words that link the concepts and express the type of relationship between them.

In the concept map, all these elements are related graphically, forming semantic chains, which have meaning.

It is essential to consider that there isn’t only one “right” concept map, the important are the relations between the concepts expressed through the linking words in order to form clauses that form a truth value about the studied object. Therefore, many truth values can be formed around a concept.