Reading Visual Aids Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011


You probably remember the date of your birth, the years that your siblings or friends were born, and other important events in your life. But do you know when the yo-yo was invented, when the Mexican War ended, or when the French Impressionist movement began? Dates can be tough to keep track of, so writers sometimes use a time line. A time line shows events organized by date.

Time lines cannot show every possible date, so they show a range of dates. The units are usually years, but they could also be months. The interval between the dates could be one year, ten years, 100 years, or more. Here are some examples of possible date ranges:


The interval in the first time line is every year, and the interval in the second time line is every five years. The third example starts in 1000 BCE and counts up to 1500 CE with intervals of 500 years. The date units are included in the third time line to make it easier for the reader to interpret. The important thing to notice is that the interval is consistent. It doesn't jump from one year to five years within the same time line.

The text in a timeline usually shows a specific date and the name of an event. Time lines often use sentence fragments, rather than full sentences, to save space. In Section 1 you read about the history of bicycles. Those events can also be shown in a timeline.

Venn Diagrams

A Venn diagram is made of two overlapping circles. It is used to show that two or more sets of data have something in common. Here's an example of a Venn diagram that represents the hobbies of two friends, Maria and Stanley:

Venn Diagrams

Each circle includes its own set of data. Stanley's hobbies are bowling, playing guitar, reading, cooking, and hiking. Maria's hobbies are knitting, kickboxing, reading, cooking, and hiking. The activities they have in common can be shown in the middle where the circles overlap, meaning that these activities apply to both. If something is not in the overlapping part, it is not shared. You can see that Stanley doesn't kickbox or knit.


Writers have many options for presenting information. Maps, illustrations, tables, time lines, and Venn diagrams are all visual ways to show information. If they are included in a book or article, they might be used as evidence and support for the author's argument. If you encounter a map or diagram by itself, you can use your active reading skills to interpret its meaning. The title, caption, labels, and unit of measurement are key clues to help you understand how the data is organized.


  1. Make a timeline of events in your life. Remember to use a consistent interval (two years, for example) and to include short descriptions of each event.
  2. Write a list of your five favorite things to do. Then think of your best friend or sibling. Write five things that he or she likes to do. What activities do you have in common? What activities are unique to you? Draw a two-circle Venn diagram to illustrate your

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Reading Visual Aids Practice Exercises

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