Reading Rockets: Semantic Gradients

Reading Rockets
Semantic gradients are a way to broaden and deepen students' understanding of related words. It helps students distinguish between shades of meaning and allows them to be more precise and imaginative in their writing. Watch semantic gradients in action. Go inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe how her students use this strategy to talk about the nuanced differences in the meaning of related words. A recent class read-aloud, The Seed Is Sleepy, is the springboard for a lively discussion about words that describe the relative size of things (for example, massive vs. gigantic, tiny vs. microscopic). Joanne Meier, our research director, introduces the strategy and describes how semantic gradients help kids become stronger readers and more descriptive writers. For additioinal videos featuring effective teaching strategies, children's authors, reading experts, and professional development webcasts — plus a robust library of video clips organized by topic, visit