Venn Diagram

The Venn diagram is normally used in a compare/contrast fashion to organize a student's thoughts. As an educator you will need to first select a topic for the Venn diagram. The Venn diagram is made up of two or more overlapping circles. It is often used in language arts instruction for examining similarities and differences in characters, stories, or poems. In science, students could compare and contrast vertebrates and invertebrates. In Social Studies classrooms students could compare democrats and republicans.


This diagram is very simple in structure and visually effective in seeing your results.  They are considered useful to both younger students and older ones.  The students contrast and compare the similarities and differences of the topic you name, making students do an in-depth analysis of the topic, reflecting, and drawing conclusions (critical thinking and inductive thinking) for the area of learning.  It will help a teacher see the knowledge of the student before a new unit (pre-assessment) and help in a comparison analysis for the teacher if used again in a post-assessment.

A simple way in which to introduce the Venn diagram is to have two students pair with each other to compare/contrast themselves. The students will then fill in the text areas of the Venn. Things that are different from one another go in the outside portion of the circles, and things the two have in common go in the "common" or overlapping area of the two circles. Some questions to think about for the students to prompt their answers:

  • What do I know about this topic?
  • What are the 3 most important elements of this topic?
  • What characteristics do the elements have in common?
  • What characteristics do the elements not have in common?

How to Use the Strategy:

The Venn diagram is frequently used as a prewriting activity to enable students to organize thoughts prior to writing an assignment. This activity enables students to organize similarities and differences visually. If the students master the Double Venn diagram, there is a Triple Venn diagram as well. This enables the students to compare/contrast more than two characters, topics, settings, etc. 

To your left are Venn Diagrams that are interactive (you can fill in the labels for them) or one to print and have the students fill in.  There is also an online Venn Diagram that students seem to love working with.  The problem is that printing doesn't turn out that well.  So doing a screen shot with a Mac (control-shift-4) and sending the picture to your teacher will work just as well.  If you use the save feature it downloads the HTML file to send.  You need to open up Safari and do File/open and find the file to open up.  It will then give you the email address to give to your teacher to see your file.  


Ideas for Assessment: 
One of the goals in reading is to maximize students' interaction with text—the more students get involved actively with text, the higher the probability of them constructing meaning from text. If a Venn diagram reflects the current state of knowledge of someone about a specific topic, there is reasonable doubt to state that a Venn diagram by itself is neither right nor wrong. Each student might produce a different Venn that reflects his or her own content knowledge. This is an Assessment of Learning and can also be used for a Reflection to Learning.  If the cardinal Venn diagram elements are characteristics of the given topic, then the basic assessment elements would be:

  • Concepts: Are the more important topics in the Venn?
  • Relations: Do relations connect topics correctly? Are they divided properly?

Something else to keep in mind while assessing Venn diagrams is the indirect effects of using graphic organizers in student overall content knowledge development. Here are some examples of indirect effects.

  • Depth of processing. Students are exceptionally attentive—not just interested—due to the explicit nature of Venn diagrams, both for evaluation and presentation.
  • Enhanced preparation. The individual nature of the Venn provides additional incentive to prepare the students when they know beforehand that a class assignment will be a Venn diagram.
  • Students are motivated. When asked to produce collaborative Venn diagrams, the students’ interaction leads to deep processing and critical thinking.