Wordmaps: Everything You Need to Know

This is a graphical expression used to arrange an idea around its important qualities and the examples as well as the non-example of the idea in question. In other words, it’s a visual model that’s sequentially structured and meets all essential requirements of present models while adding an extra element in the form of student interaction. Sometimes, a word map may also be called a ‘vocabulary graphic organizer.’

By using a word map, teachers can engage the students better with the text or lesson. Such a map can even encourage them to think about new concepts or terms in different ways by asking questions like these:

  •         What is it?
  •         What it’s like? and
  •         What are some examples and non-examples?

For instance, in a language class, a word map organizer can engage students in developing a word’s definition, its synonyms and antonyms, etc. This way, students can better comprehend the particular lesson’s vocabulary.

Word maps can also help in maths and science. Say, a teacher in a maths class is teaching the students about triangles, but the students are struggling to understand how a triangle is different from a square. In such a case, a word map can include the word “triangle,” its definition, an example or two (which could be the image of an equilateral triangle and a right-angled triangle) and a non-example (say, a circle or a square).

In a science class where students are learning about the tundra, a word map can include tundra’s geographical region (to answer ‘what is it?’), its features like freezing temperature, treeless, permafrost, etc. (to answer ‘what it’s like?’), and examples of where it’s found, such as Northern Alaska, northern Siberia, etc.

Apart from improving students’ comprehension of a word and vocabulary, a word map can also help them build upon their previous knowledge and represent new information visually. Teachers should guide students on how to use a word map, where to place the target word (typically, in a central box) and the image, suggest phrases or words that will go into the surrounding boxes to answer different questions, and teach how to adjust the number of words they need to map. They should also encourage their students to refer to the encyclopedia, dictionary, or other reference books if they need help completing the word map. They may even share online tools and resources to help students create their own word maps.

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