Building Diagrams

Lesson Plans & Activities

Building Diagrams is an activity to help students with reading comprehension‏‎ and speaking‏‎. It can be run in a similar way to jigsaw reading‏‎ in that groups of students come together to pool their knowledge to build a diagram.

Basically the students are given a series of written statements which explain several relationships. They come together as groups to try and reconstruct a diagram based on those relationships.


Firstly you need to find a good diagram to use. Ideally it should be related to the interests and level of your class. In a class of Business English‏‎ students this might be the organization of a large company. For teenagers it could be a family tree or perhaps a diagram showing which celebrities have dated which other celebrities or which actors have been in which movies.

For this example we’ll be using a diagram of a small part of the food chain: which animals eat which other animals.

The first step is to break down the diagram into single statements which should each be on a separate card. Ideally you will want one statement per student or, if this isn’t possible, make two or more smaller diagrams (which is better for beginner classes as well).

  1. hognose snakes eat toads
  2. hawks eat hognose snakes
  3. hawks eat sparrows
  4. hawks eat garter snakes
  5. hawks eat rabbits
  6. rabbits eat grass
  7. toads eat preying mantises
  8. toads eat spiders
  9. toads eat grasshoppers
  10. garter snakes eat grasshoppers
  11. sparrows eat preying mantises
  12. sparrows eat spiders
  13. sparrows eat grasshoppers
  14. grasshoppers eat grass
  15. spiders eat grasshoppers
  16. preying mantises eat spiders
  17. mice eat grass
  18. mice eat spiders
  19. mice eat preying mantises

Finally make sure you have a copy of the diagram which can be shown to the whole class (e.g. using an interactive whiteboard).

Running the Activity

Give each student a single card with one statement and let them have a few minutes to make sure they understand precisely what it says. The cards must then be handed back to you.

The next step is to get the students together in groups to reconstruct the diagram based on the statements they have memorized. With a large class you may have several groups creating the same diagram.

Give the students time to exchange information to rebuild the diagram. During this time circulate to help out and feel free to let students ask you if they’ve forgotten the statement they need.

Finally of course it’s time to reveal the diagram. As a class go over the statements and see what the different groups have come up with before revealing the final diagram:


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