Word Maps

A word map is a visual organizer that promotes vocabulary development. Using a graphic organizer, students think about terms or concepts in several ways. Most word map organizers engage students in developing a definition, synonyms, antonyms, and a picture for a given vocabulary word or concept. Enhancing students’ vocabulary is important to developing their reading comprehension.

Why use word maps?

  • They’re useful for helping students develop their understanding of a word.
  • They help students think about new terms or concepts in several ways by asking the following questions:

    “What is it?”
    “What is it like?” and
    “What are some examples?”

  • They help student build upon prior knowledge and visually represent new information.
When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

How to use word maps

  1. Introduce the vocabulary word and the map to the students.
  2. Teach them how to use the map by putting the target word in the central box.
  3. Ask students to suggest words or phrases to put in the other boxes which answer the following questions: “What is it?” “What is it like?” and “What are some examples?”
  4. Encourage students to use synonyms, antonyms, and a picture to help illustrate the new target word or concept.
  5. Model how to write a definition using the information on the word map.

Download blank templates

Examples

Language Arts

See example of a completed word map for the vocabulary word “harbor” and examples of using synonyms, antonyms and the student’s description.
See example > (76K PDF)*

Math

See how teachers can use word maps to teach new and unfamiliar terms in various math units.
See example > (52K PDF)*

Science

See how teachers can use this strategy to teach unfamiliar vocabulary terms in science units.
See example > (688K PDF)*

Social Studies

See how word maps can be integrated within a geography lesson to teach new concepts and terms.
See example > (8K PDF)*