Friday, February 15, 2013

Using Graphic Organizers with Vocab Intervention

Like I've mentioned before, we have to read a lot of articles for grad school.  I'm in Language II (school-age) this semester, and we have been reading some great articles that I cannot wait to tell you about!   One thing that jumped out to me this week was about vocabulary intervention and the use of graphic organizers to supplement it.  Since it is something that I definitely try to incorporate into my materials and speech room, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to share with all of you!  This is a summary of what Steele and Mills (2011) says.

Graves (2006) stated that visual or graphic organizers may be helpful for vocabulary instruction, especially if you're teaching difficult or complex concepts. Jitendra et al. (2004) reported that they were more helpful than "traditional dictionary instruction" when these organizers were used to supplement discussion.  They can be used in pairs, small groups, or with the whole classroom.  It can be extremely helpful with language intervention strategies.  Today, I will focus on four types of graphic organizers highlighted by Steele and Mills (2011): semantic maps, four square, semantic feature analysis, and Venn diagrams.

The first is a semantic map. Semantic maps start with the concept word in the center (in this case the target vocab word). Students will then discuss relationships, features, examples, or categories related to that word.  Nash and Snowling (2006) reported that children who used semantic maps to help with contextual clues scored higher on maintenance tests of expressive language after 3 months of intervention.
From Steele and Mills (2011)

The second type is a "four square" method, initially presented by Stahl and Nahy (2006). This can be done simply by folding a piece of paper into four sections. Discuss the word and examples versus nonexamples together. After the discussion, the student will write a definition of the word.

From Steele and Mills (2011)

Semantic feature analysis are the third type. This can be used in pairs, small groups, or whole class discussions.  Students will create a matrix and use a binary system (+/-) to determine if that feature is true of the word.  Stahl and Nagy (2006) reported that this was helpful in  distinguishing between 2 concepts but not in learning a previously unknown word.  Bos and Anders (1990) found that children who used this and semantic mapping had more gains with vocabulary and recall than those who just received definitions of target words.

From Steele and Mills (2011)

The final type of graphic organizer is the Venn diagram. They are used to compare two items with overlapping circles.  I find this part REALLY interesting because we all tend to use them!  There is NO specific research citing the benefits of the use of Venn diagrams. I repeat, there is NO research proving that these work...
From Steele and Mills (2011)
I hope this helps you when planning vocabulary intervention!! 


  1. Dear Carissa,

    I just discovered your research while working on trying to create a large working list of types of graphic organizers. I teach Elementary Edu at Cal State University, Northridge and started a site called Teachtopia for my students and other instructors. Here is what I have created so far, but I plan to add a few organizers a week indefinitely until I have a super resource for my students.

    I hope you are your reader find one of my formats useful.

    Jody Weissler

    1. Thanks so much, Jody!! I cannot take credit for this research, though. It is a summary of Steele and Mills (2001). That said, I appreciate you contacting me! I will definitely look at your site and will share with my readers!! Thanks so much for sharing!!


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