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Semantic maps

WHAT: Semantic maps or webs are diagrams that help students see how words or topics are
related to one another. Semantic mapping is not a new instructional strategy; for a num-ber of years it has been known as “semantic webbing,” “plot mapping,” and “semantic
networking.”
WHY: The procedure activates and builds on students’ prior knowledge and generally involves
brainstorming and discussion of how new information links to this prior knowledge.
The maps can be used for vocabulary and comprehension development as a prereading
or postreading activity.
HOW: While there are a number of variations to semantic mapping, the general steps involved
are:
1. Write the chosen vocabulary word or story topic on the blackboard. Draw a box or
circle around the word or term.
2. Encourage students to think of as many words or ideas as they can that relate to the
selected word or topic.
3. Students may:
c Write their ideas on paper and then share those ideas in group discussion.
c Brainstorm ideas in a small group to share in large group discussion.
c Orally share ideas together to generate a class semantic map.
4. Students’ ideas are listed on the semantic map in categories that organize the words in
a reasonable and related manner. These details or related words or ideas are written
around the main word or topic.
5. Discussion of the semantic map is perhaps the most important part of the activity.
Here students see how words or ideas are related, learn new words and find new
meanings for words they already know. During discussion, focus on the ideas most
appropriate to the lesson being taught, add new related ideas to the map, and help
students to identify those ideas that do not appropriately fit the map.

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