Word Map

Learning Strategy
Tier I
  • Paper or word map graphic organizer
  • writing utensil
Target Student

Students who have difficult identifying and understanding vocabulary


Word mapping is a strategy that focuses on vocabulary by providing the students a visual framework to assist in the introduction, identification, and understanding of a vocabulary word. Throughout content areas, students can utilize word maps to deepen their understanding of academic language and increase reflection on words that are frequently encountered throughout readings.


Learning strategies aid students in understanding information and are to be used by students independently.  Use explicit instruction (explanation, modeling, guided practice, independent practice) to teach learning strategies to students.
Explain the strategy. Provide students with an explanation of the strategy: what it is and when it should be used.
Model the strategy.  Model how to use the strategy.  Using a think aloud procedure, voice out the thought process behind each stage of the strategy. This may need to occur over the course of several days based on the needs of the students.
Guided practice.  Guide students in performing the strategy in small groups or in pairs.  During this time, scaffold the learning and support students who need assistance in using the strategy.  They can also model the think aloud strategy (when in pairs) to strengthen comprehension and learning of the steps involved.
Independent practice. After guided practice, students should only use the strategy independently, once they have shown they have mastered the strategy. Students can also be given the opportunity to reflect on the strategy.

How To

1. Either the teacher or student chooses a word or concept to be addressed and writes that word in the center of the map.
2. The question "What Is it?" must then be answered by thinking of the best word or phrase to answer this question.
3. Students then must identify and list three examples to answer the question "What are some examples?" In the designated boxes.
4. Next, students can answer the question "What is it like?" by identifying attributes or properties of the word or concept. To differentiate, students that are more advanced can also be encouraged to identify metaphors and similes of the word or concept.

Adapted from 40 Strategies for Guiding Readers through Informational Texts (Moss, B., & Loh-Hagan, V. (2016). 40 strategies for guiding readers through informational texts. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.)


Golenbock, P. (1992). Teammates. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (I).

Schwartz, R. M., & Raphael, T. (1985). Concept of definition: A key to improving students' vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 39, 198-205. 

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