Semantic Feature Analysis: During Reading

The Semantic Feature Analysis strategy asks students to identify key words in a reading selection and relate these words to the major concepts of the text. Using a graphical matrix, students . . .
  • List the key words of a reading selection.
  • Identify the meaning and properties of these key words.
  • Group key words into logical categories.
  • Relate the words (and categories) to one another.

This strategy makes special effort to draw on a student's past knowledge and experiences to define and relate the key terms.

Steps to a Semantic Feature Analysis:
1. Select a topic or concept from a reading selection for student analysis. Introduce the Semantic Feature Analysis graphical organizer (see below) as a tool for recording reading observations.

2. Help students list key vocabulary words related to the topic down the left hand column of the chart. Next, assist students in listing the properties or features of the topic across the top row of the chart.

3. Once the matrix is complete, review all the words and properties with the students and have them carefully read the text selection.

4. While reading, students place check marks in the matrix when a vocabulary word reinforces one of the properties of the topic.

5. After reading and completing the matrix, have students share their observations. Encourage discussion about differing results. Ask students to identify which vocabulary words best communicate the essential properties of the topic.


This technique coincides directly with a study strategy that I employ for my classes. The identification of key features of reading is instrumental in retaining content knowledge. Thus, through this model, students become active, as opposed to passive, readers, using the material itself to justify key concepts found within the text. Furthermore, this activity establishes connections through the material, and advocates for higher-level thinking in areas of depth of knowledge and Bloom’s taxonomy.

Source: Semantic Feature Analysis