What is Semantic Reasoning?

Semantic Reasoning Explained

Many vocabulary words in the English language have subtle nuances as they are used in different contexts. Semantic Reasoning is the process of inferring the meaning of a single word by determining the common thread among examples of that word in various contexts. Take for example the following scenarios: 

  • Rocks tumbling down a steep cliff after a rainstorm
  • A finger pushing a penny across a table
  • A hand putting a book back into a full book shelf

Though these may seem like unrelated situations, if we were provided images of these scenarios with captions, we could infer that they are all related to the verb, slide. Rocks slide down a mountain, a penny can slide across a smooth table, or someone may slide a book back into its correct position at the library. We can then deduce what the verb slide means: to move smoothly along a surface or slope. By connecting these images, and the language within the descriptive captions we create a deeper understanding of the definition of the verb, slide, and the many contexts in which it might be used. 

Visuals in context + Active Engagement = Deep Learning

Semantic Reasoning: Direct Vocabulary Instruction Think Aloud

The games in InferCabulary use Semantic Reasoning. But, many students are not yet familiar with how Semantic Reasoning works.  Therefore, it’s important to engage students in a Think Aloud. Using Basecamp view from your Teacher Dashboard, model the Semantic Reasoning method to deepen understanding of Tier 2 vocabulary words for all learners in your classroom.

(Click here to see our cofounder, Beth Lawrence, model this process!)

Semantic Reasoning in your classroom

Build your own powerful semantic reasoning experience. Complete with think-aloud prompts, this reproducible tool will go the extra mile in your classroom. This is a great lesson for the beginning of the school year to remind students how to use InferCabulary. This could also be a great routine for kicking off each new literacy unit!

Click here to access your free lesson template.


The “secret sauce” of InferCabulary is Semantic Reasoning, a great tool for supporting deep Tier 2 vocabulary instruction and acquisition in your classroom. Haven’t had a chance to try out InferCabulary yet? Sign up for a free trial today!