Vocabulary graphic organizers are a terrific way to teach children about the different parts of speech, similar ideas, and word roots. These graphic organizers can be as simple as a list or set of imbedded lists and become increasingly complex as the child’s understanding grows. Graphic organizers for the youngest learners often take the shape of a familiar object, such as a teddy bear or rocket ship, while those for higher-level elementary students can be more abstract. Among the many kinds of vocabulary graphic organizers are graphic lists, Venn diagrams, and cluster organizers, which are also called webs.
Lists are the most basic type of visual organizer. Even very young children understand that a list groups things that share something in common. Offering an organizer that contains one or more lists inside of a visual prompt gives young students a sense of security because they know how many items are expected as well as the concept the list is exploring. For example, a vocabulary graphic organizer titled "Smells in the Garden" might contain a drawing of a large flower with five numbered petals. The student writes the name of one thing with an aroma inside of each petal, for example: flower, dirt, pine tree, fertilizer, and grass.
Offering vocabulary graphic organizers with two or more individual lists helps children group related ideas. Thus, an organizer on the five senses can feature a drawing of an eye, a nose, a mouth, an ear, and a hand. Inside of each outline, the student writes the names of things that can be seen, smelled, tasted, heard, or felt. The categories are related, but the words within each category belong only to that category.
A Venn diagram is a visual way to compare and contrast vocabulary words. The diagram is created by drawing two or more overlapping circles. The part of each circle that doesn’t overlap is reserved for vocabulary words distinct to that circle’s category. The overlapped area between the two circles contains words for things that are common to both circles.
For example, vocabulary graphic organizers comparing city and country living would contain a number of items that are found in both, such as birds, cars, and people. These words appear in the overlap. The circle labeled country might contain the words barn, cow, and, chicken, while the circle labeled city might include traffic jam, subway, and museum.
A web looks much like a spiderweb. A central idea is written in a circle in the middle of the page. Spokes from the circle lead to other, smaller circles, which themselves also have spokes. For example, a vocabulary graphic organizer with birds written in the central idea circle might contain subcircles about kinds of birds such as water birds and land birds, eggs, and nests.