Semantic Webbing builds a side-by-side graphical representation of students' knowledge and perspectives about the key themes of a reading selection before and after the reading experience. Semantic Webs achieve three goals:
"Reviving" or "reactivating" students' prior knowledge and experience,
Helping students organize both their prior knowledge and new information confronted in reading, and
Allowing students to discover relationships between their prior and new knowledge.
Semantic Webbing takes two forms: divergent Webbing and convergent Webbing.
Steps to Divergent Webbing:
Write a key word or phrase from a reading selection on the chalkboard.
Have students think of as many words as they know that relate to this key idea. Write these words to the side on the chalkboard.
Ask students to group these words into logical categories and label each category with a descriptive title.
Encourage students to discuss/debate the choice of the category for each word. Write the students' conclusions (the categories and their component words) on the chalkboard.
Finally, have the students read the text selection and repeat the process above. After reading, have students add new words and categories related to the key idea.
Steps to Convergent Webbing:
Identify several themes in a reading selection. Write each theme at the top of a column on the chalkboard.
Ask students to share their prior knowledge on each of these themes. Write brief summary statements on this information beneath the appropriate category.
Encourage students to make predictions about how the text will handle the stated themes. Stress the context of the document (time frame, author's background, subject matter, etc.) as the criteria for making these predictions.
Discuss the predictions and have the class decide which are best. Write these predictions under the appropriate category on the chalkboard.
Have students read the selection. Record any new information (beyond prior knowledge) students gained from reading. Encourage the group to evaluate the accuracy of their predictions.
Require students to revise the information recorded on the chalkboard based on their reading experience.
Maddux, C. D., Johnson, D. L., & Willis, J. W. Educational Computing: Learning with Tomorrow's Technologies. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1997).