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Semantic Mapping

Semantic maps (or graphic organizers) are maps that can visually display a word or phrase and a set of related words or concepts. Learning to create these maps addresses the Common Core State Standards related to knowledge of language and vocabulary acquisition and use. Most importantly, the maps will help your students recall the meaning of words they read the text. As you differentiate instruction, provide options for each map you share with students. Offering choices and multiple representations aligns with UDL principles.


Click here to view an introductory presentation on semantic mapping strategies



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When planning to use this strategy, consider the variability of the learners and how the principles of UDL, differentiated instruction, and technology can support them in understanding and creating maps displaying word relationships.


Steps:


Step 1: Provide Clear Explanations


  1. After explaining the purpose of semantic mapping, hand out, post, or display the directions for creating a semantic map.
    Example of directions for creating a semantic map


    • Pick a word you don’t know from a text you are reading and mark the word.
    • Use a blank map or begin to draw a map or web.
    • Place the word you don’t know in the center.
    • Pronounce the word.
    • Read the text around the word to see if there are related words you can add to the map.
    • Look up the word using an online dictionary or online thesaurus to find definitions.
    • Find words and phrases that fit with the meaning. Pick pictures (from the web, from a magazine) or draw pictures that fit with the meaning.
    • Add these words, phrases, or images to the map.
    • If working online, print out the map.
    • Read the text again, applying the meaning of the word to the text.
    • Share and compare the map with classmates.

  2. Show how online tools can help with word and concept mapping (e.g., Inspiration, Visual Thesaurus, or Lexipedia) (see UDL Checkpoint 5.1: Use multiple media for communication).
  3. Invite students to demonstrate how they would create a semantic map on your interactive whiteboard while they explain the steps they are carrying out. Ask other students to revise the map by adding, rearranging, and deleting items.
View evidence behind this recommendation


IES Recommendations


Provide explicit vocabulary instruction


Evidence:
Strong


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices


Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction


Evidence:
Strong


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices


Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies


Evidence:
Strong


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade


Step 2: Give Students Strategies and Models


  1. As you model how to create a map on your interactive whiteboard, use a "think-aloud" approach to talk through each of the steps you are taking and why. Choose a simple map format for your first few demos. Pick synonyms and antonyms that students know well, and use brief explanations to describe words.  
  2. Provide students with examples and templates of semantic maps drawn from various sources.
    Possible resources for providing students with examples and templates for semantic maps


    Create your own varied templates and save them online for students to access


    • Find videos on YouTube and TeacherTube using the search terms "graphic organizers for words," thinking maps, mind maps, bubble maps, and concept maps
    • Do a Google image search using the term ”graphic organizer”

  3. Give students online access to an incomplete or poor example of a semantic map that you have created. Have students work in pairs to revise and improve this “non-example.” Have the class talk through the qualities of a really good semantic map. Ask the students to use these qualities as their class-generated rubric, saved on the class website.
View evidence behind this recommendation


IES Recommendations


Teach students to identify and use the text’s organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content.


Evidence:
Moderate


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade


Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies


Evidence:
Strong


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices


Step 3: Provide Opportunities for Practice


  1. Provide a display with examples of semantic maps in the classroom, on a class website, or in a print or online portfolio for students to refer to when they practice. Post the class-created semantic map rubric in various formats (on the board, on bookmarks, on the class blog, and so on) to facilitate student access.
  2. Encourage students to create semantic maps online and offline using pictures, illustrations, and graphics, along with written words.
  3. Give students varied opportunities to practice making and using semantic maps in different settings and with words from many texts, recognizing that their needs and abilities may differ.
    Planning for practice: What to consider


    • When will you choose, and when will your students choose, the words to put in the center of the semantic map?
    • Who will work on the semantic map—the whole class, a small group, or students working individually?
    • Which online and web-based tools are available and which will be most helpful? Examples of online tools include Inspiration or the features in Microsoft Word.
    • What kinds of support will your students need? Will you create templates?
    • How will your students share and discuss their semantic maps? Should there be space for a display in the classroom? Can there be an online portfolio?

View evidence behind this recommendation


IES Recommendations


Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies


Evidence:
Moderate


Source: IES Practice Guide: Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices


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