Semantic Feature Analysis
The semantic feature analysis strategy uses a grid to help kids explore how sets of things are related to one another. By completing and analyzing the grid, students are able to see connections, make predictions and master important concepts. This strategy enhances comprehension and vocabulary skills.
Why use semantic feature analysis?
- It illustrates how words are both similar and different and emphasizes the uniqueness of each word.
- It draws on students' prior knowledge and uses discussion to elicit information about word meanings.
|When to use:||Before reading||During reading||After reading|
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
How to use semantic feature analysis
- Select a category or topic for the semantic feature analysis.
- Provide students with key vocabulary words and important features related to the topic.
- Vocabulary words should be listed down the left hand column and the features of the topic across the top row of the chart.
- Have students place a "+" sign in the matrix when a vocabulary word aligns with a particular feature of the topic. If the word does not align students may put a "–" in the grid. If students are unable to determine a relationship they may leave it blank.
Download blank template
- Template 1 (24K PDF)*
Use a semantic feature analysis to compare genres of books across story characteristics.
See example > (208K PDF)*
Use the semantic feature analysis strategy, including an example of a completed matrix about various games and features.
Use a semantic feature analysis to chart information about whole numbers.
See example > (68K PDF)*
Use a semantic feature analysis to chart information about polygons.
See example > (92K PDF)*
Use a semantic feature analysis to teach students about the types of dinosaurs and their characteristics.
Use a semantic feature analysis example to help students compare different U.S. Presidents.
Children's books to use with this strategy
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
Animal similarities and differences are introduced by comparing various physical attributes.
The strongest, toughest animals survive amazing conditions — all because of special characteristics.
For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners
- Adjust the number of categories depending on the learner. Use concrete words and features for learners who have difficulty with abstract thoughts.
- Begin with items that are fairly dissimilar and move toward using items where the differences are more subtle.
- Follow up assignments can vary from using the information learned about one category to assignments that ask students to compare and contrast across categories.
- Be deeply aware of cognitive and cultural diversity as you work through the features. For example, in this analysis of games http://www.justreadnow.com/strategies/analysis.htm, some of the games which are marked as "individual" might be played as a team game in certain cultures or even families. A similar situation exists as to whether a game is a "kid's game" or not. Be careful to understand the student's thought process as you evaluate their answers as "wrong" or "right."
See the research that supports this strategy
AdLit.org. Semantic Feature Analysis.
Anders, P. L., &Bos, C. S. (1986). Semantic feature analysis: An interactive strategy for vocabulary development text comprehension. Journal of Reading, 29, 610-617.
Billmeyer, Rachel. (2003). Strategies to Engage the Mind of the Learner: Building Strategic Learners. Dayspring Printing: Omaha, NE: Dayspring Printing.
Johnson, D. D. &Pearson, P. D. (1984). Teaching reading vocabulary. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Richardson, Judy S., and Raymond F. Morgan. (1999). Reading to Learn in the Content Areas. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Smith, C. (1997). Vocabulary Instruction for Reading Comprehension.
Texas Education Agency. (2002). Teaching Word Meanings as Concepts.