Teaching Vocabulary Meaning Through Semantic-Based Activities

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Teaching Vocabulary Meaning Through Semantic-Based Activities . Designed by: Brenda Stephenson Mary Helen Gallien. Vocabulary. How do we teach it. ?. Teaching Vocabulary. Definition-Based Approaches Context-Based Approaches Concept-Based Approaches
Teaching Vocabulary Meaning Through Semantic-Based Activities

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Teaching vocabulary meaning through semantic based activities l.jpgSlide 1

Teaching Vocabulary Meaning Through Semantic-Based Activities

Designed by:

Brenda Stephenson

Mary Helen Gallien

Vocabulary l.jpgSlide 2








Teaching vocabulary l.jpgSlide 3

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Definition-Based Approaches

  • Context-Based Approaches

  • Concept-Based Approaches

    • Semantic Mapping

      (Schirmer, 2000)

Teaching vocabulary4 l.jpgSlide 4

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Definition-Based Approaches

Definition based approach l.jpgSlide 5

Definition-Based Approach

  • Two Forms

    • 1st- Students are asked to look up definitions of a list of words in the dictionary, copy them, and write a sentence for each word.

    • 2nd- The teacher briefly discusses the meaning of new words in an upcoming reading selection.

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Many software programs have dictionaries and other reference tools built into them

There are a variety of CD-based dictionaries including picture dictionaries and sign language dictionaries

Dictionary and ESL websites are another option

Cloze procedure (ex. ClozePro by Crick Software) and other vocabulary software programs (ex. Vocabulary Companion by VISIONS Inc.) can be used to present words in different contexts

There are many programs and websites that allow teachers to create materials using their own word lists related to their curriculum

Definition Related Technologies

Teaching vocabulary7 l.jpgSlide 7

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Definition-Based Approaches

  • Context-Based Approaches

  • Concept-Based Approaches

    • Semantic Mapping

      (Schirmer, 2000)

Teaching vocabulary8 l.jpgSlide 8

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Context-Based Approaches

Context based approach l.jpgSlide 9

Context-Based Approach

  • Youngsters ultimately need to encounter a word in context to develop a full sense of its meaning (Gipe, 1980; Gipe & Arnold, 1979).

  • Guessing vocabulary from context is the most frequent way to discover the meaning of new words.

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Context-Based Approach

  • Students need to be taught to:

    • Look before, at, and after the word.

    • Connect what they know to what the author has written.

    • Predict a possible meaning.

    • Resolve or re-do. Decide if they know enough, should try again, or consult an expert or reference.

      Blachowicz & Fisher (1996)

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Context-Based Strategy Technologies

  • There are many commercially available educational software programs that focus on introducing vocabulary within passages (ex. Vocabulary Development by Optimum Resources)

    • Many have pre-test to determine the appropriate level for students

    • Many track student work done so teachers can print reports and keep data on progress

  • Cloze Pro is a program that allows teachers to create Cloze activities

Teaching vocabulary13 l.jpgSlide 13

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Definition-Based Approaches

  • Context-Based Approaches

  • Concept-Based Approaches

    • Semantic Mapping

      (Schirmer, 2000)

Teaching vocabulary14 l.jpgSlide 14

Teaching Vocabulary

  • Concept-Based Approaches

Concept based approach l.jpgSlide 15

Concept-Based Approach

New Knowledge Is Gained…

  • from finding new relationships in old knowledge and

  • from relating new information to old knowledge.

    (Schirmer, 2000)

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Integration Methods

  • Semantic Maps

    • organize prior knowledge into formal relations

    • provide a basis for understanding

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Semantic Mapping

  • Prereading Activity

    • used to activate prior knowledge

    • used to introduce key vocabulary words

  • Postreading Activity

    • add words, categories, and

      new concepts to the original

      maps to provide understanding

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Semantic Mapping

  • Vocabulary development activities should consider how a word fits into a student's semantic repertoire rather than how it is used in a particular context. 

  • Semantically based activities relate the meaning to the child’s world.

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Semantic Mapping

  • The teacher writes a word that represents the key concept.

  • The students are asked to think of words that relate to the key word.

  • These words are grouped around the key word in categories.

  • The teacher then presents new words and encourages a discussion about where these words might fit into the map.

    (Duffelmeyer & Banwart, 1993; Heimlich & Pittelman, 1986; Johnson, Pittelman, &Heimlich, 1986)

Semantic map for the solar system l.jpgSlide 20

Semantic map for the solar system:

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There are a variety of semantic mapping software programs, for example Inspiration

The maps can be color-coded, shape-coded, and images can be added to further support students

Visual Thesaurus is a web-based “program” that links related words to each other as a semantic map

Students can click on related words to more clearly understand meaning and relationships among concepts

Concept-Based Strategy Technologies

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Hands on Activity

  • (Suggestion: Have students create a semantic map here…)

Your turn...

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Word Maps

  • A vocabulary word map

    • is a visual organizer

    • engages students with new terms

    • helps students to think about new terms or concepts in several ways

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Antonyms can go here too.


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We must enhance our students’ knowledge of:

  • Words with Multiple Meanings

  • Figurative Language

  • Idiomatic Meaning of Words

  • Denotation/Connotation

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Multiple Meaning Video Clip

  • Word of the Day clip

Multiple meanings l.jpgSlide 28

Multiple Meanings

  • Run

    • We will have to run to catch the plane.

    • Does the pepper make your nose run?

    • Don’t let the water run.

    • The river will run into the ocean.

    • I have a run in my hose.

    • She will run for class president.

    • How long will the school play run?

    • He will run his father’s business.

    • We run everyday.

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Multiple Meanings

  • Made

  • I made my bed.

  • I made money.

  • My brother made me do that.

  • The rain made the grass green.

  • I made a present for you.

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Multiple Meanings

  • Interactive Websites


  • (Jeopardy)

  • Develop presentations (ex. PowerPoint) that have multiple meaning words in context

    • Students can sign the words appropriately based on context or draw illustrations to demonstrate the meaning

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    Figurative Language

    …those forms of language that result in a non-literal meaning.(Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002)

    • Idiomaticexpressions

      • Chip off the old block.

    • Similes

      • She looks like an angel.

    • Metaphors

      • My brain is a sieve.

    • Personification

      • Mr. Toothbrush wants you to tickle him.

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    Idiomatic Meanings

    • An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not compositional- that is, whose meaning does not follow from the meaning of the individual words of which it is composed.(Google)

      Interactive Website:

    • Cut it out

    • - Piece of cake

    • - Hit the hay

    • - Bent out of shape

    • - Kick the bucket

    Denotation connotation l.jpgSlide 33


    • Denotation (Concrete)- Literal meaning of the word… “dictionary definition.”

    • Connotation (Abstract)- Associations that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions related to that word. The connotative meanings of a word exist together with the denotative meanings.

    • Denotative:

    • “any of numerous scaly, legless, sometimes venomous reptiles having a long, tapering, cylindrical body and found in most tropical settings.”

    • Connotative:

    • meanings of the word snake could include evil or danger.


    The fairview learning program l.jpgSlide 34

    The Fairview Learning Program

    • It provides direct access to ASL and opens a window for hearing and deaf people to begin to think and sign bilingually. (Fairview Learning Network)

    • It is currently being used in 42 states

    The fairview learning program35 l.jpgSlide 35

    The Fairview Learning Program

    • The Bridge Lists

      • English phrases requiring ASL translation for understanding.

        ‘Down the street’ requires multiple sign concepts, depending on the context.

        • “A ball was hit down the street”

        • “A man walked down the street.”

    The fairview learning program36 l.jpgSlide 36

    The Fairview Learning Program

    • The Bridging Process

      • allows the conceptual signing of phrases, rather than the word for word signing required by most sign codes.

        “Put out the fire.”

        • Word by word, one is literally signing,“Pick up the fire and put it outside.”

        • Bridging provides the visual translation of the phase’s true meaning,“Extinguish the fire.”

          (Fairview Learning Network)

    The fairview learning program37 l.jpgSlide 37

    Adapted Dolch Words

    Deaf children

    must see the different meanings in context in order to acquire them.

    The Fairview Learning Program

    • Dolch words:

      • commonly used words

      • found in most basal readers

      • Deaf children and hearing children do not learn Dolch words in the same way

    Most hearing children acquire the

    various meanings effortlessly

    through their sense of hearing.

    (Fairview Learning Network)

    Helpful tips for vocabulary development l.jpgSlide 38

    Helpful Tips for Vocabulary Development:

    • Promote Natural Growth in Meaning Vocabulary

    • Promote Lifelong Vocabulary Learning through Indirect Vocabulary Instruction

    • Promote Learning of Specific Words through Direct Vocabulary Instruction

      (Schirmer, 2000)

    Additional technologies to assist with vocabulary development l.jpgSlide 39

    Additional Technologies to Assist with Vocabulary Development

    • Image-to-Text programs can be used to develop vocabulary study cards or learning activities (ex. Picture It, Signing Exact English Interactive, etc.)

    • Image-to-Text programs can be used to make “rebus” passages with images matched with text (ex. The above and Clicker 5, Writing with Symbols)

      • Many programs have settings for images to be shown or not so phrases rather than individual words can have a picture prompt or after a period of time the image can set not to show for specific words

    Additional technologies to assist with vocabulary development41 l.jpgSlide 41

    Additional Technologies to Assist with Vocabulary Development

    • Some software programs allow for the development of class or personal digital dictionaries (ex. Wordbar or Clicker 5 by Crick Software)

      • Grids that contain cells with words or phrases are located below the word processing portion of the screen to assist students in selecting appropriate vocabulary

      • Grids can be custom made related to units of study

      • Students can develop their own grids as references for their subject areas

      • Wordbar includes only text and Clicker can contain an image as well as text

    Additional technologies to assist with vocabulary development42 l.jpgSlide 42

    Additional Technologies to Assist with Vocabulary Development

    • Specialized sign videotapes and DVDs are available for free to deaf individuals and people who work with deaf/hh individuals

      • Captioned Media Program

      • PEPNet

    • These videotapes can help students (and others) learn specialized vocabulary for content and career areas in both sign and English

    Bibliography l.jpgSlide 43


    Easterbrooks, Susan R. & Baker, Sharon (2002).Language

    Learning in Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

    Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon

    Schirmer, Barbara, R. (2000).Language and Literacy

    Development in Children Who Are Deaf.Needham Heights, MA:

    Allyn & Bacon

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