Semantic knowledge is the ability to understand narrative. This includes the ability to understand the meanings of words in different contexts, as well as a knowledge of the meaning of relationships between words. The activities listed here will help develop semantic knowledge

Semantics refers to the meanings of words and how they relate to each other. This may be affected by poor auditory memory skills and can have serious implications for pupils in the classroom. If they cannot retain an understanding of the learning of new vocabulary, they will have difficulty understanding new concepts and ideas. This will also affect their ability to express their own ideas.

Pupils with difficulties in this area may have:

  • word-finding problems (see separate ‘word-finding’ activities page)
  • difficulty with word classification
  • difficulty developing more than a literal understanding of a text
  • a poor short-term auditory memory
  • a need to be given time to process information
  • kinesthetic strengths, learning better through using concrete materials and practical experiences
  • visual strengths, enjoying learning through using visual materials (charts, maps, videos, demonstrations).

Order the best-selling book A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher for lots more activities and help.

Activities to develop semantic knowledge

  1. Comparative questions – eg. ‘Is the red ball bigger than the blue ball?’
  2. Opposites – using everyday objects (eg. thin/fat pencils, old/new shoes).
  3. Sorting – both real and pictorial items into simple given categories (eg. items we can eat, items we use for writing and drawing).
  4. Classification – ask pupils to sort both real and pictorial items into groups, using their own criteria.
  5. Bingo – simple pictorial categories (establish that each pupil understands the category on their baseboard before they begin the game).
  6. Odd one out – ask the pupils to identify the items that should not be in a specific category and give reasons why.
  7. Which room? – ask the pupils to match pictures of objects to specific rooms in the house and give reasons for their choice of rooms.
  8. Where am I? – one pupil chooses a place in the classroom to stand or sit and asks ‘Where am I?’ The other pupils have to use a range of prepositions to describe the pupil’s position, eg. ‘You are in front of the teacher’s desk’, ‘You are next to the whiteboard’.
  9. Comparisons – activities in maths (finding objects that are shorter than, longer than).
  10. Concept opposites – introduce concept vocabulary within different areas of the curriculum, using visual/concrete materials (eg. hard/soft, full/empty, heavy/light, sweet/sour, rough/smooth).
  11. Homophone pairs, snap, pelmanism – using pictures and words (eg. see/sea, meet/meat).
  12. Compound word dominoes – eg. start/bed//room/to//day/for//get/pan//cake/hand//bag/finish.
  13. Compound picture pairs – match pictures that form a compound word (eg. foot/ball, butter/fly).
  14. Word families – collect words that belong to the same category (eg. vegetables, fruit, clothing).
  15. Synonym snap – this provides an introduction to the use of a simple thesaurus (eg. big/large, small/little).

From  A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher by Jacquie Buttriss and Ann Callander