Graphic Organizers are a long time tool of teachers.  They are a great tool to be used in any subject area, fit a variety of learning styles and are well researched as to their effectiveness.  Robert Marzano talks about the effectiveness of using Advance Organizers in his book, Classroom Instruction that Works and A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works.   

When the information you are presenting is unfamiliar to students, and when the relationships among pieces of information are complex, you might want to present students with graphic organizers that have much, if not all, of the information already filled in.  Using this tool, students can develop a familiarity with both the information and the relationships among the pieces of information before the initial process begins.  (pg 285)

If you feel students will be able to understand new information on their own, you can provide them with blank organizers.  A blank organizer provides conceptual “hooks” on which students can hang ideas that might seem disconnected without the organizer. (pg 286)

I also like to use them as a note-taking sheet while researching online.  It is so much harder to plaguerize when students have to take short concise notes about what they are reading.

How to make Graphic Organizers? 

Inspiration is a great tool to create graphic organizers.  It has premade templates and can easily be modified to fit the situation needed.  Teachers could even create(or modify) a template and post it in a shared location for students to begin using as a starting point. Inspiration is a great brainstorming tool as a class or as an individual and can be switched from graphic format to an outline form with the click of a button.  I have included a quick start guide for Inspiration 8:   Getting Started Guide to Inspiration 8

 Publisher is another tool to use, but it has to be manipulated more than using Inspiration. Publisher 2002 User Guide

Why do or don’t you use graphic organizers in the classroom? 

On a side note: Listen to an interview conducted by ASCD with Robert Marzano about his new book The Art and Science of Teaching: