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Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA)

Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA)

Purpose:

Provides students with practice in analyzing words and concepts along various defining
dimensions, characteristics, or features.  

Procedure:

1.  Obtain a blank grid (see template).

2.  Identify a topic or theme from which to draw words to analyze.

3.  Choose or invite students to choose a set of items, objects, or concepts that fit within the topic
of theme (e.g. Topic = Texas Cities, Concepts = Dallas, Houston, Wichita Falls, etc.; Topic =
American Leaders, Concepts = Washington, JFK, FDR, LBJ, etc.).  The concepts are listed in the
left hand column.

4.  Brainstorm, alone or with students, features or characteristics that one or more of the concepts
possess (e.g. Topic = Texas Cities, Features = Population over 500,000; Major sea port, southern
half of state, state capital, contains military base).  List the features along the top row of the grid.

5.  Students use the features to analyze the concepts.  Initially students can place a yes or no in
each box to indicate the presence or absence of the feature.  As students become more adept at
using SFA, they can rate the degree to which each concept contains such a feature (e.g. 1 = does
not possess the feature at all, 2 = possess the feature to some degree, 3 = possesses the feature to
a very high degree -- very descriptive of the concept).

6.  Students should discuss their reasoning with their classmates after completing the grid
analysis.

7.  After completing the analysis, students can write definitions for each concept using the
various features or attributes that were the basis for the analysis (e.g. Houston is a large Texas
city located in the southern part of the state; it is a major sea port but is not the state capital...).

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