Greenling / During Reading / /

Wild – Semantic Mapping

Developing depth of understanding of a high concept word.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Vocabulary: Tier 2 vocabulary


  • Vocabulary: Blended Approach


One of the themes in the story is the contrast between wild and tame/ domestic. Greenling is a wild creature, and the Barleycorn’s dog is domesticated. Perhaps that is why he doesn’t appear to trust Greenling. But what does ‘wild’ mean?

In this lesson, we use semantic mapping to explore word associations and use these to depend on our understanding of potential themes in the story. Semantic mapping is a useful strategy for exploring high-concept words.


  • Large sheets of paper and marker pens.


Write the word ‘wild’ on the whiteboard.

Ask the class to suggest some words that they associate with the word ‘wild’. Start a list. Make the point that these words are associations rather than synonyms. For example, you might associate ‘weather’ with the word ‘wild’, but weather is not a synonym for wild. Some of the words might be synonyms but it is not a requirement,

The list might start something like this:

  • mad
  • weather
  • nature

If the children’s ideas are very similar and they are thinking along one line, feed in some suggestions of your own to encourage divergent thinking. However, they must be able to explain how their suggestion is an association, if the links seem too tenuous.

Once the children have the idea, set a two-minute challenge. Ask them to come up with as many associations as possible. Who can get the most words in two minutes?

Gather the class. Take suggestions and build a class list.

Now, ask them which words on the list could go together. For example, mad, angry, temper could be grouped as they are all emotions.  Savage, untamed, beast could be another group.

Use the connections to build a ‘concept’ or ‘semantic’ map

After completing the task, the children can compare their maps with an automatically generated one using (Avoid taking a shortcut to Lexipedia as it is the process of creating the maps that deepen vocabulary knowledge.).

Final reflection

When you have explored the different meanings of the word ‘wild’, ask the children which definitions seem to fit the story best. 

  • Do different definitions for ‘wild’ fit different parts of the story?
  • What words might be used to express the opposite of ‘wild’? (e.g. tame, domesticated, pet).
  • Are there any animals in the story that are wild, like Greenling?
  • Are there any animals in the story that contrast with the wildness of Greenling and Australian wildlife?

If appropriate, make explicit that writers often use contrasts in literature: light and dark, night and day, love and hate, wild and tame.


Key vocabulary

wild, tame, civilised, domesticated, cultivated, primitive

contrast, opposite

Subject-specific and technical vocabulary 
Academic process words 
Advanced vocabulary

binary opposites

Morphological investigation 
Etymological investigation 


Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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