15 FREE Google Drawings graphic organizers — and how to make your own


Using Google Drawings to create graphic organizers can help students gather their thoughts and customize to their needs. (Wikipedia / whistlaw)

Sometimes, we just need some help organizing our thoughts — students AND educators.

Paper versions of graphic organizers can do a nice job of that. But by making them digital in Google Apps, they instantly become customizable. Multiple people can collaborate on them in real time. They can be shared with a link, embedded in a website or downloaded as an image file.

In short, digital graphic organizers are more versatile.

In Google Apps, there’s a highly powerful yet highly overlooked app called Drawings. It gives users a blank canvas where they can add text, shapes, lines, etc. When done, they can save their work as image files or PDF files and can add those images to documents, slides and spreadsheets.

Drawings can be the virtual page where students can gather and process their ideas.

Creating graphic organizers can be done pretty easily. I’ve created 15 of them (see links below) that can be copied, saved, changed, tweaked or completely redone to fit your needs and your students’ needs.

It took me about 90 minutes to make 15 of them, so that averages out to six minutes each. (Some were more time-consuming than others, and I got faster at making them as I progressed.)

Once you’ve created a graphic organizer (or have saved one of mine), there are a few easy ways to get them to your students:

  • If you use Google Classroom, create a new assignment and choose the option to deliver a copy of your graphic organizer to each student.
  • You can copy the URL (link) to the graphic organizer and deliver it to students via a class website, TodaysMeet room, etc. You can also make a shorter, easier URL to type with URL shorteners like Bitly and TinyURL. (Check your Internet filter to make sure your shortened URLs come through. I’ve found that TinyURL works in most schools’ filters.)
  • Using the blue “Share” button, click the “Advanced” button and set the document as “Anyone with the link” at the top and “Can view” at the bottom. That way, students won’t be able to change your original copy and will have to make a copy of their own.
  • PRO TIP: When you copy a URL (link) to any Google Apps file, it probably says “view” or “edit” at the end of it. If you change that word to “copy”, it will force whoever opens that link to make a copy of the file instead of opening your file. That’s another trick to keeping your original version from being altered.

Here are 15 graphic organizers that can be used for many different subject areas and grade levels. Feel free to make a copy of any of them and adapt them for your own use:

Venn diagramVenn diagram: Lets students write similarities and differences on a topic.

KWL chartKWL: Lets students list: what I know, what I want to know, what I have learned.

TimelineTimeline: Lets students plot dates and events over a specified time period.

Evaluation chartEvaluation: Lets students identify criteria, explain whether it was successful and why, and provide evidence.

Cause and effect chainCause and effect chain: Lets students identify actions that caused other actions and their effects.

Fishbone plannerFishbone planner: Lets students list advantages and disadvantages of a topic.

Word web-semantic mapWord web / semantic map: Lets students branch ideas out from a main topic into subtopics.

Flow chartFlow chart: Lets students display the linear relationship among several things.

Hexagonal thinkingHexagonal thinking: Lets students connect ideas with multiple contact points. I first learned about hexagonal thinking at Google Teacher Academy in Austin, Texas, in December 2014.

Character mapCharacter map: Lets students list important information about a character, like what the character says and what the student thinks of the character.

Cornell note-takingCornell note-taking: Lets students list main points and evidence, details and location.

Plot diagramPlot diagram: Lets students show how a plot builds, climaxes and resolves.

Vocabulary clusterVocabulary cluster: Lets students identify synonyms, antonyms and related words to a specific word.

Vocabulary concept mapVocabulary concept map: Lets students make connections to other words from a specific vocabulary term.

Think about your thinkingThink about your thinking: Helps students think through their decisions and how they arrived at their conclusions.

Frayer Model (by request!): Provides a framework for thorough understanding of new words.

Argumentative Writing (submitted by Melissa Rasmus of Chippeway Falls Area USD in Wisconsin): Helps students organize essays by breaking down parts of the essay in different sections.

BONUS: Click here for the entire folder of all of the graphic organizers in one shared Google Drive folder!

Question: What other graphic organizers would be useful to create in Google Drawings? Can you share a link to a graphic organizer you’ve created so others can use it, too? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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08:30-04:00 p.m.
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Catholic High School New Iberia, LA
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08:00-03:00 p.m.
Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools Partnership Fort Wayne, IN
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8:00-3:00 pm
Tech Academy  
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Service Learning School District Detroit, MI
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New Prairie High School New Carlisle, IN
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New Carlisle, IN
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08:00-03:00 p.m.
NH Best Practices in Curriculum, Assessment and Assessment Conference Concord, NH
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Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Betterdorf, IA
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35 thoughts on “15 FREE Google Drawings graphic organizers — and how to make your own

  1. Great Resources Matt! I love them and they will work so well with Google Classroom. I like using the Tools4Students and Tools4Students2 iPad apps because of their wealth of organizers, but these are even better because you remove the step of exporting the PDF. Also, since Google allows images to be dropped into the organizers, that gives another dimension.

  2. One organizer I’d love would be a continuum that goes from least important to most important with areas to insert the criteria. I have one I’ve used with my SMART Board for years and I have found it very useful, thought provoking, and fodder for some excellent high-level discussions. I’ved used it for concepts such as characters in a novel, scientific forces, etc. The best was a discussion with 1st graders saying it is more important to solve a problem more than once than to get it right, because if you check your work, you’ll notice your mistakes. That one blew my mind.

    Another I’d love to see is a set of nine boxes that can work like a puzzle where students have to match up pieces that go together similar to a triominoes game. I can send you photos if it would help.

    I also must mention that both of these fabulous ideas came from http://www.teachingwithsmartboard.com.

  3. Thank you Matt for this great resource. My students used the drawing app for the first time to create illustrations for their stories. I hadn’t though of them for graphic organizers, but it would be perfect. Based on the illustrations I recieved the students would have no problem not only figuring it out but making it an effective learning too.

  4. The graphic organizers are currently view only. Is there a way you can share them so that students can input text, in other works, make them editable?

    • Sure, Karen … two ways —

      1. When students load the organizers, they can make a copy into their own Google Drives. They can then edit and turn the file in to the teacher by sharing it or using something like Google Classroom.
      2. When assigning work in Google Classroom, teachers can distribute files as “make a copy for everyone” … kind of like a digital photocopier. Each student gets his/her own editable version of the organizer.

  5. Dear matt, I really like the work that you’ve done and you are truly an inspiration. Our school has recently gone GAFE and I as the ICT teacher have been tasked to implement it in our school, alone;) Help may come later..? I was looking through the templates that you have designed and I noticed that many could be used in our school. I added the folder to my drive, but i am not allowed to share it with other teachers. Is there a way that I could share it with other teachers, or would I need to download, convert, and then upload again? Thank you so much for the work that you’ve done, and wish me luck as it seems there is so much to learn.

    Also, any suggestions on the best way to learn to be a Google teacher and admin? There seems to be a sea of information with the basics, but I need to figure out more advanced features and be able to train other teachers, all in 6 weeks.

  6. I hope this isn’t just a newbie question, but is it possible to add one of your drawing slides into a Google Slideshow that I am creating?

  7. Great ideas Matt and co. I also use Solo Taxonomy to help my students reach deeper thinking processes when interpreting and writing about artworks in Visual Arts. New South Wales, Australia has a very rigorous Visual Arts syllabus and this graphic organiser has been useful to my students across Years 7 – 12. (11-18 years old)
    It can easily be adapted to other subject areas. Essentially the process breaks down into the following; 1) Misses Point (Identify/Do simple procedure) 2) Multi-Structural (Describe/List/Combine) 3) Relational (Compare/Contrast, Explain causes, Analyse, Relate, Apply 4)Extended Abstract (Theorise, Generalise, Hypothesise and Reflect.
    Points 1 and 2 are Quantitative while 3 and 4 are Qualitative.