REFERENCE: Pehrsson, R.S., & Denner, P.R. (1988). Semantic organizers: Implications for reading and writing. Topics in Language Disorders Series, 8 (3), 24-37.
Description of article
CONTEXT: This article discusses the benefits and applications of the semantic organizer approach, semantic organizers (also called maps), and current research supporting their use in the reading and writing process for students who have difficulty in organizing, evaluating, and remembering information.
According to the authors, the benefits of using semantic organizers with students with disabilities in reading and writing, as indicated in the article are as follows:
- Bridging the gap between organizing information and the process of reading and writing
- Organizing and simplifying information
- Viewing important relationships
- Viewing text as a sequence of relationships from one paragraph to the next
- Constructing sentences and paragraphs
The authors provide definitions and examples of various types of semantic organizers and illustrate the approach they would take in aiding students with reading and writing disabilities in acquiring skills for organizing information. The authors project a development sequence for introducing semantic organization for beginning readers and nonreaders alike, including students with language disorders, as follows:
Realia clusters: Realia clusters use real things, such as household items and rope to connect items and illustrate relationships between the items. For instance, to demonstrate the idea of a family eating dinner, a teacher might use a pot, a dish, and a fork and then use rope to connect the items. A telephone, the authors point out, would be an item used to show something that does not belong in this category. This approach helps students to place real items into categories. The authors contend that "to know what something is, it is necessary to also understand what it is not."
Picture clusters: Picture clusters make use of pictures in organizing information. In this stage, students would be asked to arrange items around a central picture. Then they would connect items to the picture with pieces of rope. The authors use the same example of a telephone being excluded from a group which includes a pot, a dish, and a fork, but in this case, the cluster is made up of pictures, as opposed to real items.
Verb clusters: Verb cluster organizers use pictures to represent action verbs. Pictures representing verbs such as walk, eat, swim, and jump are connected by lines to their written counterparts. A picture of a boy jumping would be connected to the written word "jump." Verb clusters are eventually used to help students construct sentences with the verb as the central part of the sentence.
Noun clusters: In contrast to verb clusters, noun clusters emphasize the noun as the central part of the sentence and move students towards using a noun as as the central theme in organizing a paragraph.
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