I love Semantic Maps! {Evidence-Based Strategy}

I love any reason to use markers in speech-language therapy sessions with my students. When I demonstrate how to make semantic maps, I naturally use markers to make the terms more appealing. Who doesn’t like colorful work samples anyhow? Plus, it is a great memory aid as well.

Semantic maps are visual representations of key vocabulary words that are accompanied by definitions, pictures, and/or acronyms to help individuals learn academic content.

I provide speech-language therapy to kindergarten-fifth grade students. Typically, I use this evidence based strategy with my 5th grade students with science and social studies content. However, it is beneficial with younger kids as well.

Last year I implemented a single subject research design study for my Ed.S. degree program in curriculum & instruction. I compared 5th grade students’ receptive social studies vocabulary knowledge after instruction using semantic maps with World War I and World War II terms vs. the intervention method of flash card drill & repetition. Making semantic or metacognitive maps were a part of Dr. Caroline Leaf ‘s, The Switch On Your Brain 5-Step Learning Process system that I implemented during this research. She is a neuroscientist and speech-language pathologist. How cool is that! I met her in person two years at a conference and she is a phenomenal speaker!


Ok, back to semantic maps. My research findings revealed that the use of the semantic map strategy increased the receptive vocabulary knowledge of 5th grade speech-language impaired students at a greater rate than vocabulary instruction using the flash cards method. On average, my students made a 35 % gain from pretest to posttest with WW I terms and a 50 % gain with WW II terms using semantic maps as a vocabulary learning strategy. When they used the flash card method during the non-treatment phase they demonstrated a  11% increase with WWI terms and a 15 % increase with WWII terms.

This year, I have reviewed key ideas about the Civil War, reconstruction, westward expansion, animal cells, and plant cells using semantic maps with my students who have language disorders and co-occurring language based learning disabilities.

Here are some more snapshots of the maps:





Thanks for reading my blog today! 🙂

*Remember to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for regular updates as well! I appreciate your support of Building Successful Lives (BSL) Speech & Language.

Tamara Anderson

Learning Styles Myth or Fact: Right Brain vs. Left Brain


chatting with a friend recently, she asked me if I had recommendations for
learning strategies to help her god daughter in school because she is a “right
brain learner.” She explained that she tends to do well when she uses visual
aids and wanted to know if I had any video resources that I could send them. I told
her that I would be happy to share some information with them.
It is true that specific parts of the brain have specific functions such as Wernicke’s Area in the Left hemisphere controls language comprehension (receptive language) and Broca’s Area controls expressive language. However, research in fact confirms that both hemispheres work together to process and learn new information. See Jensen (2000) and Leaf (2007) for references at the bottom of this entry. The interactive processing or comprehension of information is more related to the various styles of learning or multiple intelligences that can assist a student to comprehend academic content and not just understanding if  they are a left brain vs. right brain learner. 
This is supported by the theory of multiple intelligences that explains that
people have different cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles. This theory proposed that there are seven types of intelligences that are of equal importance and include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. 

As a speech-language pathologist, I have experienced working
with students who perform best when they are allowed to practice specific
skills through oral language practice (interpersonal/intrapersonal
intelligence), using visual cues/organizers (spatial intelligence), and with hands on activities (kinesthetic intelligence).  Because the students I work with have
language based learning disabilities, their linguistic intelligence (e.g. reading/writing) is often their weakest skills. Therefore, these students have to use their other
strengths or intelligences to learn new skills. 

Many students who identify with being “right-brain learners” may benefit from the use of pictures, integrating singing academic lyrics, playing background music, or participating in kinesthetic/hands on activities to learn a particular skill. 

The bottom line is that students often learn best when they are exposed to more than one learning style to encode the information into their brain. When this is done, they effectively transfer the information into short term memory and then long term memory. Although people may have their own preferences for learning, both sides of the brain work together to effectively process and learn new information. 

I will provide additional resources on this blog about
learning styles, brain-based learning, and specific resources that can help all students learn.
Tamara Anderson, Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist 


Jensen, E. (2000).
Brain-based learning. The new science of teaching & training. San Diego,
CA: The Brain Store Publishing.

Leaf, C. (2009). The
switch on your brain 5 step learning process. Dallas, TX: Switch On Your Brain USA.

Stay current with all the latest best practices guidance in communication, language, and literacy. Join the community of those receiving complimentary materials!