Click play below to hear how to use a semantic map:
Since we’re in the fourth week of the small steps to S.O.R. series, you know by now that reading comprehension is the result of having strong word recognition skills and language comprehension skills. Additionally, an important element of the language comprehension strand is vocabulary. But what’s the best way to teach and have students learn new words? Today’s small step is going to show you how to use a semantic map when introducing new words in isolation.
A semantic map is basically a graphic organizer that maps out words. There are different semantic fields that can be added to the map that deepens a student’s understanding and use of the word. We know that words are so much more than a definition, so by using a semantic map, it will help your students understand the relationship and connection between words, concepts, and ideas that directly aligns to the science of reading.
In this episode on the use of a semantic map, I share:
- How the use of a semantic map directly aligns with the Science of Reading
- The difference between indirect and direct vocabulary and examples in your classroom
- Examples and ways to use a semantic map in your daily instruction and activities
- Ways you can mix up the organizer to best fit the needs of your students and skills you’re focusing on
- Free Literacy Workshop
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- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 141, Explicitly Teach the Most Common Prefixes & Suffixes [Small Steps to S.O.R. Part 3]
- Episode 139, Practice Sentence Deconstruction [Small Steps to S.O.R. Part 2]
- Episode 137, Build and Activate Background Knowledge [Small Steps to S.O.R. Part 1]
- Episode 85, What is the Science of Reading & Why is it Important?
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Hey there teachers thanks for tuning in. This is our fourth week of our small steps to SOR series. Each Thursday, I have been releasing a bonus episode where I am sharing a small step that you can take to align your upper elementary instruction to the science of reading.
And today’s small step is to use a semantics map when introducing words in isolation. So before we jump into the practical side of that step, let me explain how this aligns to the science of reading.
And I’m hoping that I’m starting to sound a little bit like a broken record here when I explain how each of these small steps connects to SOR. But I want to make sure that everybody listening understands that reading comprehension is the result of two things, students having strong word recognition skills, and students having strong language comprehension skills.
And those two strands of the reading rope have sub skills or various elements that help students experience success in each of those areas. And vocabulary is one of the elements of the language comprehension strand. And we know that vocabulary is so closely tied to comprehension, and it is really essential for literacy success.
In fact, I read somewhere that adequate reading comprehension depends on a person already knowing between 90 and 95% of the words in a text. That’s a lot. The research on vocabulary instruction indicates that while most vocabulary is learned indirectly, at the same time, some vocabulary must be taught directly. So we want to make sure that we are both indirectly and directly exposing students to vocabulary in our classroom.
And so let me explain what both of those are and the difference. So indirect vocabulary learning is when students learn words and their meaning through daily conversations and general exposure. And this happens all the time. We can’t explicitly teach students every single word that they know, they just pick up on language.
This happens during a read aloud and students hear new words in the stories that you read. This indirect vocabulary learning happens through class discussions when new vocabulary words and terms are used by the classmates and by you, their teacher. And this happens through independent reading, and students are exposed to new words on their own. Students will pick up and learn a ton of vocabulary words indirectly through these experiences.
But we also want to be intentional about providing direct vocabulary instruction that is a necessary element. Now, there’s two parts of direct vocabulary instruction. We are providing direct vocabulary instruction, when we teach our students word learning strategies. So things like when we teach them the meaning of prefixes and suffixes, when we teach them the meaning of Greek and Latin roots.
When we teach students about multiple meaning words, when we teach students how to use context clues, so they can figure out the meaning of unknown words. These are all word learning strategies. And like I said earlier, it is impossible to teach students every single word that they will ever encounter.
But when we teach students these word learning strategies, they are going to be much more equipped to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words on their own. And so instruction and word learning strategies is going to make your indirect vocabulary learning so much easier for students.
But we can’t just rely on indirect vocabulary instruction. We are also on occasion, going to have to provide our students with direct instruction, where we explicitly teach them the meaning of individual words, because there’s going to be words that are going to be necessary part of the background knowledge that they’re going to need in order to understand a topic or a text.
And so explicitly teaching the meaning of individual words might happen before a read aloud, or a shared reading experience in a small group lesson. Or it might happen at the beginning of a science, social studies or math lesson where students need to have a strong understanding of a specific content or academic word.
And when we focused on individual words in isolation, a great tool that can make your individual word instruction, so much more effective is to use a semantic map. And maybe you’re wondering, what is a semantic map? Glad you asked, because I’m going to tell you.
So a semantic map is a graphic organizer that maps out words. And you can include a variety of semantic fields, which I’m going to explain in a little bit. There’s no necessarily right or wrong way to put together a semantic map, you’ve got tons of options. But ultimately, having this graphic organizer that maps out words is going to help students understand the relationships and connections between words, concepts, and ideas.
And I remember when I was in the classroom, and I first started teaching second grade, we had a basal reader that I was required to use with fidelity. And every week, our weekly story would have a list of vocabulary words that connected to it. And we always did some sort of vocabulary activity every single day before we read the story.
And usually, these vocabulary activities would focus on the words and the definitions of the words. So maybe one day students would read the Word, and they would look up the definition and write the definition, one day, they would complete a worksheet where they were matching the words with the definitions, they might complete a multiple choice set of questions where they’re having to select the correct definition and eliminate the incorrect ones.
Or for fun, they might complete a crossword puzzle, which is basically just focused on words and definitions. Most of the vocabulary activities included in our basal reader focused just on words and definitions. But a word has so much more than just a definition. And when students have a really strong understanding of what a word is, and what it isn’t, they are much more likely to understand it and be able to use it on their own.
So a semantic map can have a variety of semantic fields. And you can honestly pick and choose which ones you want to include which ones you think will might be most helpful for your students. Obviously, on our semantic map, we need to include the word somewhere. And this is usually put in the center of your semantic map or somewhere towards the top.
But then other elements that you can include and envision this kind of like a web. So you’ve got the word in the center, and all of these categories are around it. Maybe you have the definition. Maybe you have a list of synonyms, and a list of antonyms. Maybe you have some examples. These could be words, phrases, or sentences that explain this word in context.
Maybe you have other meanings of the word, if it is a multiple meaning word. Maybe you include the part of speech with specific examples. Maybe you include pictures or symbols of this word, maybe you include a description of what this word is, and a description of what it isn’t.
And you don’t have to include all of those fields in your semantic map, but picking the semantic categories that are going to best benefit your students the most. And you also have options. So you know, maybe you start with just one or two and throughout the year you add more or you change up what you want to focus on.
But focusing on more than just the definition is going to give your students a much richer understanding of the word. So let’s talk about some times when you might want to use a semantic map, this could be a great tool to use during a read aloud. So this could be something that you build with your students before reading to help build their background knowledge on a specific vocabulary word.
But you could also revisit it after the read aloud and add more examples or information about the word after your reading experience. This is something that you could have students complete on their own during their independent reading, students could fill out a semantic map for a new or interesting word that they found in their independent reading text.
This could even be something that you assigned for homework and have students focus on it while they’re reading at home. You could create a semantic map during math, science, or social studies. These content specific subjects all have vocabulary words that are essential for your students to understand. And taking time to create a semantic map might help solidify their understanding.
And if you are a departmentalized teacher, this could be a tool that you share with your co teachers to encourage them to focus on vocabulary instruction and their subjects as well. But you could even use a semantic map during your morning meeting. If you focus on specific social, emotional and learning skills.
Think about creating a semantic map for the specific character traits you want your students to focus on and to embrace. Think about how awesome it would be if your students had an in depth understanding of words like empathy and compassion and perseverance.
If they understood these words beyond the definition, if they could give you a list of antonyms, and a list of synonyms and if they could give you specific examples of what that word looks like, if they could explain what do those traits look like in action and what they don’t look like. And if they can even draw a picture and show you a scenario or come up with a symbol that represents that word.
It would probably be so much easier for students to actually embrace and apply those traits to their personal life if they really understood what each trait meant. And I think that’s the whole purpose of a semantic map is to go beyond the definition and really give our students a complete and robust understanding of the words that we are introducing to them.
So, you can create a semantic map template on your computer. Remember, it’s just a graphic organizer. And you could always use the same template for your students, you can make copies and have it available for them to use independently. Or you can even hand draw a web with your students as you’re building out the semantic map with your students.
Either way, the ultimate goal is for students to have a much deeper understanding of the word than just the definition. So if you want to take a small step to align your instruction to the science of reading, then when you are introducing your students to individual vocabulary words, use a semantic map and focus on a variety of semantic fields.
So that’s it. Easy peasy. We are a little over halfway through our small step series. And I do hope that hearing these small steps is giving you a much better understanding for what the science of reading is. I know phonics is talked about a lot online when we’re hearing about the science of reading and phonics is important.
But the science of reading is so much more than that. So hopefully these small steps are helping you feel empowered and much more confident to align your instruction to the science of reading. We’ve got three more episodes left in this series. And I hope you’ll join us for both. Our regular episode comes out on Monday and then next Thursday, I’ll be back with another small step. So I hope you have a stellar week.