Semantic Mapping

One of my very favorite things to do is draw. I doodle just about every moment of the day, whether to illustrate a word problem, visualize an abstract concept or relationship, or simply for no reason in particular. See “Figure 1”.

Figure 1

But doodling accomplishes more than just conceptualization and procrastination. According to recent research, doodling may help memory recall by offsetting mental blockades to useful, but boring, information.

Beyond that, Semantic Mapping is a useful method for developing deeper understanding of a topic by using imagery and graphics to represent multifaceted literary or temporal events. This type of Semantic Mapping is also referred to as Graphic Organizers or  Diagrammatic Reasoning.

In Semantic Mapping, a portion of text is broken down into a list of facts, a layout of temporal sequences, or a dichotomy of causes and effects in order to be graphically represented in diagram form. This can aid student in approaching expository writing by revealing patterns, trends, and narratives in bland, inaccessible blocks of information. For example, take the following paragraph from  Scientific American‘s article on a new type of drug-resistant bacteria, ST398:

Complicated stuff. But if we break the paragraph down into a series of temporal events, and represent it in diagram form in a style similar to this

we get this:

Not exactly pretty, sure, but it is a fair representation of the text through images and symbols. What was originally an unapproachable block of text is now a tangible, simple, and—I think—more fun semantic map of information. This exercise is easy and enjoyable, because it allows students to get a better idea about how they make connections, and then further allows them to get a bit messy (or, in this case, very messy) with the ways in which the represent those connections.


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