Graphic Organizer Tools for Writing

  • Situation

    My very bright 13 year old granddaughter has a great deal of trouble putting her thoughts down on paper. She has ADD and makes excellent grades but when it comes to answering a question that requires her to write down her thoughts, she has a very hard time. It can take her hours to write just a sentence or two. Once on a test at school, she simply wrote nothing. She did fine on the rest of the test but not on the writing requirement. This happens both at school and home. What can I do to help my granddaughter be more able to put her thoughts into writing?

  • Summary

    Many students need some help to begin the writing process, particularly with open-ended questions and during the creative writing process. Using a Graphic Organizer specifically for writing can help organize a child or students thoughts and make the practice of writing easier.

  • Definition

    Graphic Organizers are sometimes called concept maps or mind maps, but whatever they are called, their purpose is to provide an organized visual diagram that shows relationships between thoughts, concepts, and the written word.  Graphic Organizers are available for all different levels from Kindergarten to adult learners, and can be effective writing strategies for students with learning disabilities.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Graphic organizer templates

  • Process

    1. Identify topic material the child/student will be writing about.


    2. Identify the writing goal or outcome (fiction/non-fiction, poetry, editorial, etc.)


    3. Find a template that will assist your child or student with the pre-writing process of brainstorming.

    • There are many options for this part of the process such as: the Describing Wheel or Spider Map as found below in the Resource Section.


    4. Once the student has organized the pre-writing information onto the template, a second Graphic Organizer can be chosen according to the format of the required writing assignment.

    • Many options are available for free. See the reference below for some of the many websites that offer Graphic Organizers or
    • Ask your child’s teacher for an appropriate graphic organizer for the assignment.


    5. Using the first brainstorming template to reference, fill in the newly selected graphic organizer with all of the information. This will help the student to arrange and add needed information into a format that is manageable to use.


    6. Now, use the filled out Graphic Organizer to develop the first draft of your paper by using the sequence the template provides.


    7. Edit and rewrite with input from teachers or adults.


    8. If writing continues to be problematic inform the child’s teacher to discuss additional interventions or other  factors that may contribute to the writing issues (e.g. is the actual fine motor skill of writing the barrier or having to think too much about encoding (spelling) which causes her to lose her thoughts).


    9. See ‘Related Answers below on this site’  for additional writing strategies

  • Documents and Related Resources (website link with free graphic organizers)

  (website link to free grade level graphic organizers)

  (website listing writing obstacles and helpful tips)


    Modifying Open-Ended Questions (related answer on this site)


    Modifying Open-Ended Questions Using Concrete Models (related answer on this site)


    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.