t may have a significant impact on the teaching reading process is the semantic mapping strategy (Darayesh, 2003).
۱.۲.۳.۱. Visual reading vs. reading comprehension. Let’s begin by picturing a child reading a book silently to herself. She’s just sitting there, fairly motionless, staring at a book. Occasionally, she turns a page. Sometimes she laughs quietly to herself for no apparent reason because, we know that, inside her head, she is exploring a story and listening to the author that tells a tale through a voice that only she can hear.
As the reader sits motionless, s/he is simultaneously decoding the text and comprehending the message contained within the text. That is what reading is all about; decoding and comprehension. The integration of these two skills is essential to reading comprehension, and neither one is more or less essential than the other. Language comprehension generally refers to one’s ability to understand the text.
It is also worth noting that there are different types and levels of language comprehension. Language comprehension in this context, then, refers to the ability to understand and draw inferences from text. The text should be in a language and at a level that the reader is able to understand (Pressley, 2000).
Reading comprehension is like the motor in a car; if every part functions well and the motor is put together properly, the motor as a whole will function well, but even when some of the parts are not functioning very well, the motor sometimes still runs, albeit poorly.
So, reading comprehension is understanding a text that is being read, or the process of “constructing meaning” from a text. Comprehension is a “construction process” because it involves all of the elements of the reading process working together as a text is read to create a representation of the text in the reader’s mind (Williams, 1993: 638).
Reading comprehension skills separate the passive unskilled readers from the active readers. Skilled readers do not just read but they actually interact with the text. They can predict, for example, what will happen next in a story using reading clues presented in the text, then create questions about the main idea and plot of the text and also monitor understanding of the sequences, context or characters (Sanders, 2001). The readers comprehend better when the text has an understandable organization that indicates the relationship between ideas. In this study, it means that to what extent students comprehend the interrelationships between the ideas presented in the reading comprehension texts by use of semantic mapping strategy.
۱.۲.۴. Semantic mapping and reading comprehension. At initial stages of reading comprehension many students have the ability of compensating reading problems or errors by using the reading strategies and becoming accurate decoders, but most of them fail to reach a level of sufficient fluency to become fast and efficient readers (Adams, 1990). Actually there should be a kind of communication between the reader and the text. It means that the learner should interact with the text in order to reach the ultimate goal of learning; communication (Pressley, 2000).
To read effectively, the learners should have the ability of using their linguistic and rhetorical competences simultaneously. Having controlled linguistic competences is not enough for effective comprehension in reading. It is the rhetorical competence that most second language learners lack (Harp & Brewer, 1996). So, the students should be taught how to read in order to create lifelong readers. Here, further research is needed to give us more answers to questions concerning the best teaching reading strategies which deal with this interaction. The students should make difference between visual reading and reading comprehension.
Visual organizers of text or semantic maps can be used to help students comprehend what they are reading (Sinatra, 1984; Sinatra, Stahl-Gemake, & Berg, 1984). Graphic displays of text can be helpful in providing a visual picture of the content and showing key linkages. Pupils learn to identify the text structure of passages by identifying a possible “map” of the structure. In doing this, students are taught to read the text, searching for ways it might be mapped; using familiar terminology (Baker &Gersten, 1998). Struggling readers with reading comprehension problems often need to connect new information to the content they already know or learned. This is common for most students, but especially for students with reading below grade level. The strategies should be used to help them in reading comprehension.
On the other hand, the biggest challenge in reading is to help students see that the details within the text are related. When students see how the details are related to each other, they discover that the information is easier to learn. This also helps students respond more meaningfully to the information that follow. Whether the teacher is using semantic maps in his/her instruction or the student is developing his/her own semantic maps, the cognitive processes which the student employs through these maps help him/her put the pieces together in a meaningful, learnable whole (Ausubel, 1968).
۱.۲.۴.۱. The Effectiveness of semantic maps. The majority of literature base assessing the effects of graphic organizers examined one or more of the following:
۱. Where the semantic map was used in the instructional sequence (Simmons, 1988)
۲. Whether the semantic map was teacher or student constructed (Armbruster, Anderson, & Meyer, 1991)
۳. The effect on students with disabilities or varying ability levels in reading (Guastello, 2000)
Studies have shown that semantic maps have been useful as an advance organizer (which is constructed before the task) as well as a post organizer (which is constructed after the task) in the classroom (Simmons, 1988). According to Griffin and Tulbert (1995), outcomes of semantic maps studies remain unclear because different types of these strategies are used in each study. Therefore, some semantic organizers may be more useful as an advance organizer and others as a post organizer.
As mentioned, semantic maps are simply visual diagrams of ideas on paper. Teachers and students use them to create visual models of ideas presented in students’ textbooks, classroom lectures, or video such as films and documentaries. Semantic maps are great study guides that provide a visual map of ideas and their relationships to each other (Bayes &Husein, 2008).
According to research, these strategies are effective study guides that can provide students with a general overview of information, show patterns, highlight main ideas, and organize supporting facts. They can also help students understand and memorize ideas (Sinatra, 1984).
Semantic maps are also helpful study guides for all students, but they are especially beneficial for students with expressive language and receptive language disorders and those who are visual learners. With this type of representation, semantic organizers help students with language processing deficits by visually presenting the most important information and eliminating information that is not as critical. This helps students focus and to place information into a mental framework without excess language processing demands getting in the way (Roy, 2006).
Moreover, used as study guides, semantic maps can help students to link information to prior learning and provide a foundation to link future learning. The process of placing information onto the graphic organizer helps students think about concepts and organize those thoughts as they write. When used as a small group learning activity, they can help students learn different ways of looking at the information by discussing ideas with others (Zaid, 1995).
On the other hand, semantic mapping has been shown to be
a beneficial learning/teaching technique for native speakers of English at all grade levels in regular and remedial classrooms as well as for those who are learning-disabled (Novak & Canas, online document). Students, who use these maps, manifest considerable improvement in reading comprehension, written expression, and vocabulary development. Its value for English as a Foreign Language has also been acknowledged. Studies by Baron (1969) showed that semantic processing was an effective vocabulary learning strategy. Moreover, a series of studies principally by Harp and Brewer (1996) examined how schema theory and semantic mapping can improve the reading skills of ESL students.
Ellis (2001) identifies three benefits of using semantic maps or graphic organizers. First, graphic organizers make the content easier to understand and learn. They also help students separate important information from what might be interesting but not essential information. Second, according to Ellis (2001), semantic maps decrease the necessary semantic information processing skills required to learn the material. By making the organization of content information easier to understand, graphic organizers allow material to be addressed at more sophisticated levels. Finally, students who use semantic organizers may become more strategic learners. An individual’s approach to a task is called a strategy (Bulgren et al., 2002). Strategies include how a person thinks and acts when planning, executing, and evaluating a task and its subsequent outcomes (Deshler & Lenz, 1989). When the organization of a topic becomes apparent, reading and writing skill, communication skills, analytical skills as well as creative skills are subject to improve with the use of graphic organizers (Ellis, 2001).
Semantic maps and the curriculum planning. In curriculum planning, semantic maps can be enormously useful. They present, in a highly concise manner, the key concepts and principles to be taught. The hierarchical organization of semantic maps suggests more optimal sequencing of instructional material (Novak & Gowin, 1984).
Since the fundamental characteristic of meaningful learning is integration of new knowledge with the learners’ previous concept and propositional frameworks, proceeding from the more general, more inclusive concepts to the more specific information usually serves to encourage and enhance meaningful learning. Thus, in curriculum planning, we need to construct a global “macro map” showing the major ideas that planned to present in the whole course, or in a whole curriculum, and also more specific “micro maps” to show the knowledge structure for a very specific segment of the instructional program (Pressley, 2000).
Using concept maps in planning a curriculum or instruction on a specific topic helps to make the instruction “conceptually transparent” to students (Pressley, 2000: 548). Many students have difficulty identifying the important concepts in a text, lecture or other form of presentation. Part of the problem stems from a pattern of learning that simply requires memorization of information, and no evaluation of the information is required. Such students fail to construct powerful concept and propositional