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three elementary students making a list of words on flip chart paper


List-group-label is a form of semantic mapping. The strategy encourages students to improve their vocabulary and categorization skills and learn to organize concepts. Categorizing listed words, through grouping and labeling, helps students organize new concepts in relation to previously learned concepts.  

Key Information



When To Use This Strategy

After reading

Appropriate Group Size

With small groups
Whole class setting

Why use list-group-label?

  • It helps students organize their understanding of specific vocabulary and concepts.
  • It builds on students’ prior knowledge about a topic.
  • It actively engages students in learning new vocabulary and content by activating their critical thinking skills.
  • It teaches categorizing and labeling skills.

How to use list-group-label

  1. Select a main concept in a reading selection.
  2. List: Have students brainstorm all the words they think relate to the topic.
    • Visually display student responses.
    • At this point do not critique student responses. Some words may not reflect the main concept, but hopefully students will realize this as they begin grouping the words in the next step.
  3. Group: Divide your class into small groups. Each group will work to cluster the class list of words into subcategories. As groups of words emerge, challenge your students to explain their reasoning for placing words together or discarding them.
  4. Label: Invite students to suggest a title or label for the groups of words they have formed. These labels should relate to their reasoning for the grouping.

Watch: List-group-label

Go inside Cathy Doyle’s second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe her students learning the list-group-label strategy. Cathy builds the lesson around the concept of gardening, based on a recent classroom read-aloud, The Gardener. Joanne Meier, our research director, introduces the strategy and highlights the vocabulary and comprehension skills that list-group-label supports.

Collect resources


This example shows how the list-group-label strategy can be used with learning about living and non-living earth systems. See earth systems example ›

Social Studies

This website shows an example of a Native American list-group-label activity. See social studies example › (opens in a new window)

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Ask students to return to their lists as they read through the text related to the major concept they brainstormed about. They may find they should add words from their reading or re-label the groups of words they created.
  • Encourage students to discuss lists with others outside their initial small group.
  • Have students write the lists or type them using a word processing program.
  • Provide students with pre-established categories to use to group words.
  • Create graphical representations of words in order to help students connect to prior knowledge.
  • Ask students to create their own drawings to accompany the words.

See the research that supports this strategy

Lenski, S. D., Wham, M. A., & Johns, J. L. (1999). Reading and learning strategies for middle and high school students. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Taba, H. (1967).Teacher’s handbook for elementary social studies. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Tierney, R.J., & Readence, J.E. (2000). Reading strategies and practices: A compendium (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Children’s books to use with this strategy

Topics this strategy is especially helpful for

Classroom Management, Comprehension, Vocabulary