Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Memory Strategies for Vocabulary – Semantic Mapping

Based off the feedback from one of my recently-completed courses, I've decided to take a closer look at vocabulary instruction and practice methods in the classroom, starting with memory strategies and strategy training.

Semantic Mapping

“This strategy involves arranging concepts and relationships on paper to create...a digram in which the key concepts are highlighted and linked with related concepts via arrows or lines" (*1, p. 61). This is a good strategy to use with visual learners, because it illustrates connections between ideas and words. 

Often, I use a strategy like this in my teaching. At the beginning of class, I try to have a warm-up discussion about the topic at hand. During this time, I usually take notes on the white board or flip chart in a “brainstorm” model, where words related to a topic branch out and words related to the branches come of of those. This is also a subtle grouping method.

I don't normally use pictures in my semantic maps, but that is also a good option. The word-image association could strengthen the processing of the vocabulary.  Also, I've never asked the students to do the mapping themselves. Since I usually have fairly small classes (3-6 students), it would be relatively easy to give each student a marker, and to have them write the words on the map themselves, in the location that they feel is the most appropriate. This could also be a starting point for a good discussion and group work. 

A nice vocabulary website that shows this concept of semantic mapping is Visuwords. Every word is connected to its meaning, which in turn is connected to several other words. Again, it doesn't use pictures, but it does have the connections. 

How do you use semantic mapping for vocabulary instruction?

1. Rebecca Oxford, Language Learning Strategies, 1990.