Graphic Organizers for Compare & Contrast

Instructor: Caroline DaSilva
A favorite tool of many educators, the graphic organizer offers many benefits to both teachers and learners alike. This lesson provides an understanding and useful examples of two popular graphic organizers: the Venn diagram and the T Chart.

Why Graphic Organizers? The Secret to Compare/Contrast

A graphic organizer is a visual representation of relationships between facts, concepts, or ideas. It can guide learners as they fill in and build upon a graphical 'map' or diagram of their thoughts. You may have heard it called by other names like concept mapping, webbing, or mind mapping. Graphic organizers are scaffolds and supports for learning, can be used for almost any subject and at any grade level, with the intellectually gifted learner through to those with learning challenges, and are some of the most effective learning strategies available today.

One of the most effective uses of graphic organizers is as a tool to compare and contrast ideas, facts and concepts. This strategy has four key benefits:

  • Provides simple structure: Graphic organizers help learners think through and organize their thoughts as they compare and contrast.
  • Increased comprehension: By adding their visual element, graphic organizers make abstract ideas more concrete, and can also reduce any confusion between related concepts (Example: safety vs. protection).
  • Develops higher-order thinking skills (HOTS): Going beyond content memorization or repeating it back, compare and contrasting with graphic organizers serves as a stepping stone to higher level thinking- helping the learner make connections and structure their thinking.
  • Strengthens retention: By focusing learner thinking on just two ideas, learner ability to remember key content is improved.

The two most popular graphic organizers are the Venn Diagram and the T Chart. Useful for all ages of learners, they are very easy to create and customize to any content.

A basic Venn Diagram consists of two intersecting circles, although more circles can be added for increased complexity. Each circle represents one of the two concepts being explored. Learners list the differences between the two ideas in each of the respective circles. Where the two circles intersect represents the ideas' commonality, and this is where learners indicate everything that the two concepts being analyzed have in common (compare).

Venn  Diagram

In this simple example, we consider a dog and a fish. A dog differs from a fish in that it lives on land and has fur, which is entered into the 'dog' circle. The fish circle shows that the fish differs from the dog because it lives in the sea and has scales. What they have in common is that both breathe air which is indicated in the common area where the circles overlap.

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