Concept of Definition Map

[Schwartz & Raphael, 1985]

The idea is that it’s not enough to know how a word is defined in a dictionary sense. Consider what happens with the following word that many 9th graders reading To Kill a Mockingbird may not have encountered before:


“of or related to a church”
Example of Appropriate Use in a Sentence:
The minister’s ecclesiastical robes danced in echo to his wild gestures from the pulpit.
Example of Sentence Written by a Student:
Church members are reminded to park in the ecclesiastical parking lot, rather than in the shopping center across the street.

Besides the fact that “ecclesiastical” is probably not central to students’ understanding of the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird, it remains that the definition they were given is too one-dimensional. They have not experienced its richness of meaning, nor the shades of meaning that help us distinguish words more precisely from one another. The best way for students to comprehend a new vocabulary term is for them to experience it. A concept of definition map helps broaden their experience of new words.

How Do They Work?
Concept of Definition maps consider words in light of three properties or attributes:

  • category – What Is It?
  • properties – What Is It Like?
  • illustrations – What Are Some Examples?

Help Me Visualize A CD Map. Got a good graphic for me?

concept of definition map

Download and Print:

Source: Reading Quest