Semantic Word Map

A semantic word map allows students to conceptually explore their knowledge of a new word by mapping it with other related words or phrases similar in meaning to the new word.


1. Help students acquire a clearer definition of a concept by learning the connections among several related words

Teacher Preparation

1. Select a concept and anticipate students' background knowledge.
2. Reflect on important related ideas, events, characteristics, and examples for discussion.

Instructional Procedures

1. Introduce the concept.
2. Have students brainstorm many words regarding the concept.
3. Record their words on the board.
4. Extend the discussion around words that suggest larger related categories, ideas, events, characteristics, and examples.
5. Remind students which words on the list are likely to be most useful as the larger, organizing ideas.
6. Direct students to work together in small groups to decide which words belong under the appropriate categories and to discuss the reasons for their decisions.
7. Give students about 10 minutes to complete their word maps. Walk around the room observing each group's progress, assisting when needed.
8. Allow all groups to present their semantic word maps and their reasons for choosing each word for the appropriate category.


1. Model the process of creating a semantic word map by identifying a common Greek, Latin, or Anglo- Saxon word root; its core meaning; and the common base form of the root, such as astron, star: aste1; astro. (In addition to standard classroom dictionaries, a dictionary of word origins will also be useful.
.bene-good, well: bene, beni .civis-citizen: cit, civ
.liber-free: lib
.malus-bad, evil: mal, mali
2. Write the word root and its meaning on the board and draw a circle around it.
3. Have students brainstorm as many words as they can think of that share that root (astrology, astronomy, asteroid, astronaut, astronome1; astrologe1; astroturf, Astrodome).
4. As students call out the words, write them on the board on lines radiating from the center, pointing out their meanings in relation to the root.
5. Demonstrate how to remodel the word map by creating clusters under broader categories, such as persons, things, fields of study.
6. Select a useful word root central to the understanding of one or more key concepts.
7. Have students work independently or in small groups to create their own semantic word maps as demonstrated above.
8. Encourage students to present their word maps orally to explain the new words they have learned and the word associations that will help them remember the target concept.
9. Direct students to proceed with the reading.
10. Incorporate Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology in semantic word maps to help students.