Number one for English language teachers

TKT: Carroll diagram

Type: Article

In the sixth article in this series, Kay Bentley looks at Carroll diagrams. These are excellent tools to help learners develop subject vocabulary knowledge and logical thinking skills.

Carroll diagrams were named after the writer and mathematician, Lewis Carroll. They are a type of visual organizer and can be used in all curricular subjects for sorting yes/no information into labelled boxes. One part of the diagram is the opposite of the other. Carroll diagrams are popular with teachers because, by using them, learners develop knowledge of subject vocabulary and logical thinking skills. They can also be used creatively.

Carroll diagrams have many purposes in the classroom:

  • they are excellent for revisiting subject-specific language and for consolidating learning
  • they can be used for activating prior knowledge by asking learners to add their ideas before presenting new subject content
  • they provide support for learners to create their own diagrams and then exchange them with others who can provide further examples in the boxes

The following examples show how the diagrams can be used in different subjects:

Maths (describing shapes)

 CurvedNot curved
2D- circle
- semi-circle
- oval
- square
- triangle
- pentagon …
Not 2D- sphere
- cone
- cylinder
- cube
- cuboid
- pyramid …


PE (types of sport)

 AerobicAnaerobic
Static - weight lifting
Not static- cross-country skiing
- long distance running
- downhill skiing
- 100m sprint


Art (describing colour)

 Primary coloursNot primary colours
Dark- crimson
- navy blue
- auburn
- charcoal grey
Not dark- baby blue
- corn
- silver
- peach
- beige


In the PE example, there is an empty box. This encourages learners to think of reasons for this. Although there are aerobic, static activities (e.g. running on a treadmill), there are no actual sports which fit this category.

In the art example, learners can follow up the task by looking at paintings by different artists and then completing the Carroll diagram with the names of the paintings which have these colours.

In TKT: CLIL, the purposes of Carroll diagrams are tested with other examples of visual organizers in Part 2, ‘resources including multi-media and visual organizers’. Examples of all diagrams are taken from across the curriculum. 


For more information about the TKT: CLIL visit the Cambridge ESOL TKT: CLIL website.

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