What Is a Semantic Line Graphic Organizer?

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13704

There are almost as many styles of pre-writing as there are topics to write about, and it helps to have a variety of strategies that work for you. Learn about a less well-known style in this lesson!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Do you know what the word semantic mean?


Check out the official Merriam-Webster definition of semantic.

Now consider the phrase semantic line.

  • Based on the definition of semantic, what do you think a semantic line might be?

Semantic Line

A semantic line is a list of synonyms that can be used for words that are commonly used in writing.

Semantic line mapping is a technique of making lists of associated words and phrases, then displaying them visually to show the meaning and relationships between them.

You may have seen word webs or clouds before, like the examples shown below. These are all forms of semantic line mapping.

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These are a useful tool to quickly and graphically display related concepts, which can inspire further thinking on a topic.

This is why semantic line mapping is a useful pre-writing tool: it combines the more free-flowing and creative elements of brainstorming and mind-mapping with the linear, straightforward organization of outlines.


Take a look at an example of the process for creating a semantic line map from a sample writing prompt.

Sample Prompt

Choose a literary figure. Select someone who would be considered a major dramatic character in world literature.

These can be real-life characters...just make sure they have been written about in dramatic literature.

Write a brief description of this person, emphasizing the characteristics and actions which lead to them being so memorable.

Brainstorm for Various Characters

  • Davy Crockett
  • Mr. Darcy
  • Emma
  • Kurtz
  • Odysseus
  • Achilles

Brainstorm for Sample Topic: Davy Crockett

In the brainstorming phase, you simply write everything you can think of about your topic to get the ideas flowing.

This doesn't need to be organized in any kind of logical order. Just worry about getting thoughts on the page. It might be helpful to set a timer to give yourself focused time for this task.


  • amiable - independent - courageous hero warrior
  • backwoods - bear hunter
  • rifle - "Betsy"
  • statesman
  • born August 17, 1786 - Limestone, Tennessee - small cabin
  • fifth of nine children - fifth son
  • parents - John and Rebecca Hawkins Crockett
  • stands for the "Spirit of the American Frontier"
  • 49 - died a martyr's death at the Alamo in Texas
    • helped Texas win its independence from Mexico
  • grandfather - moved from North Carolina to East Tennessee
  • father operated a tavern - Davy listened to all types of people and heard all kinds of tales
  • ran away when he was 13 to drive cattle to Virginia
  • returned home when 15
  • worked to pay off his father's debt
  • went to school for six months for four days a week
  • excellent marksman - won all kinds of contests
  • license to marry Margaret Elder in 1805 - rejected Davy 1806
  • married Mary Polly Finley - 20 years old
    • three children: John Wesley, William Finley, and Margaret Finley
    • 1815 - Mary died
  • married Elizabeth Patton, a widow
    • children: Rebecca Elvira Crockett, Robert Patton Crocket, and Matilda Crockett
  • commander of a battalion in the Creek Indian War in 1813-1814
  • member of the Tennessee Legislature - 1821-1824
  • member of the 20th and 21st Congress of the United Sates - 1829 to 1835
  • motto: "Be always sure you are right, then go ahead."
  • March 1836 - died with 139 others in massacre at the Alamo - killed over 2,000 Mexicans

Graphic Organizer

Pick out the key words that you might want to use in this essay. Write down synonyms for each of these words.

Semantic Lines:

courageous: brave, valiant, bold, fearless, dauntless, strong-hearted, intrepid, unafraid, chivalrous, manly, dashing, valorous, gallant, resolute, stalwart, heroic

amiable: friendly, agreeable, amicable, pleasant, congenial, good-natured, kindly, obliging, cordial, sociable, affable, engaging, winning, charming, polite, genial, gracious

independent: self-reliant, autonomous, free, self-directing, individualistic, unconstrained

adventurous: daring, bold, venturesome, audacious, brave, courageous, valiant, intrepid, challenging, risky, hazardous, perilous

dedicated: devoted, committed, pledged, consecrated

heroic: brave, courageous, fearless, gallant, daredevil, adventurous, legendary, bold, daring, noble, mythological, mythical, exalted, highbrow, grandiose, ostentatious, pretentious, exaggerated, inflated, bombastic

Using the Semantic Lines

Now that you've seen how the process of semantic mapping works, it's time to take a look at how to use semantic lines to draft an essay.

The sample prompt in the example above was to select a literary character, real or fictional, and write a description emphasizing the character traits and actions that explain why he or she was so memorable.


Formulate a purpose or thesis incorporating the direction in which you plan to go in your response.

Sample Purpose / Thesis:

Although having little education and coming from a humble background, legendary Davy Crockett is known throughout history as a skilled backwoods man, a dedicated politician, and a tough fighter. Furthermore, he has been featured in literature as a dramatic figure.

  • What parts of this thesis might have been influenced by the semantic lines identified above?

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Next, take a look at this example introduction written around this thesis statement:

Although having little education and coming from a humble background, legendary Davy Crockett is known throughout history as a skilled backwoods man, a dedicated politician, and tough fighter. In reading about Davy's life, as a character in dramatic work, one can see how the legend known as Davy Crockett developed. Though only going to school for about 30 days and coming from a very humble background, Davy Crockett created some memorable stories for American history and culture with his tomahawk, or hatchet, his trusty rifle named Betsy, his tales in the Tennessee legislature, and his fierce fighting, especially at the Alamo, where he died. His skill as a backwoods man, his dedication as a speaker, and his fierce fighting all helped create his legendary status, so much that he was incorporated as an actual character in many dramatic works.

  • Do you see how this example has a hook (first sentence) and thesis (last sentence) that are reflections of each other?
  • What effect, if any, do you think that has on the reader?

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  • Do you notice any additional parts that may have been influenced by semantic line mapping?

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Seeing how this process works, consider these questions:

  • What are the pros and cons of this style of pre-writing?
  • How would you benefit from using this approach?
  • Are you ready to practice using these skills with another example prompt and response?

If that last answer is yes, click through to the Got It? section!

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