Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where in the World Should the Word Wall Go?

Today while one of my fabulous colleagues and I were setting up our classrooms we started talking about where our word walls should go. Because of my Literacy Collaborative background I am a huge believer in putting it in front of the classroom, right by the meeting area so it is a part of all you do during the day. Grant it, the word wall can take up a ton of space in that prime location, but I've found that for it to be a meaningful, living, breathing part of the classroom it should be right up where the kids have constant access to it.

If we want our kids to use the word wall and learn the words on the word wall then it makes sense to put it up front right where they can see it and use it. In my class we do at least 5 minutes of word wall activities every day. We always start our word wall time by singing an alphabet song. (Dr Jean's Alphardy or Who Let the Letters Out are our favorites.) This connects the letters on the wall with the phonetic sounds.

Once a week we add a new word (or when I taught 1st grade we added 5) to the word wall. We add the words all together as a class, talking about what we notice in the words, what letters they have in them, whose name has the same letters in it, and where we think the word should go on the wall. When possible I try to get a kid to be the one to add the word to the wall to show us where he/she thinks the word belongs (and of course, explain why). (For those of you in VA I'm pretty sure there is a kinder SOL on understanding alphabetical order).

My word wall two years ago right in the midst of the meeting area.
The rest of the week during our 5 minutes of word wall time we play word wall games. We play "I spy" and take turns saying things like, "I spy a word that starts with the letter C", or "I spy a word that has the 'ch' in it." We do word wall cheers and chants and take turns passing around the pom-pom. We spell the word out loud and touch our toes if the letter goes below the line, touch our hips if the letter is on the line, and putting our arms in the air if the letter goes above the line. I've gotten a flash light and shown it on different words and had the kids shout out the word they see.

This past year I started taking the words off the wall during this time to make a sentence. I'd put out the words "I like Johnny" and ask someone to read it. Then I'd remove Johnny's name and put up someone else's name and see who can read it. Do they understand that the words of the sentence stay the same and contain the same meaning if I just change one word? I loved this activity because it showed the kids that the words we are learning can be put together to make meaning- they are not just random words we memorize.

Even when we aren't doing our 5 minutes of official word wall work we are constantly talking about the word wall. When we read big books we look for our word wall words in the big books and highlight them. When we do interactive writing we use the word wall to spell our words. We also use the ABC letters of the word wall to help us form our letters and to help us listen to the sounds in the words. The close proximity of the word wall encourages the kids to make connections with the words throughout the day. Without prompting they'll often raise their hands and point to a word on our morning message to show that it happens to be on the word wall.

Last year I wasn't pleased with my word wall access. I still had it close to the front of the room, but it wasn't close enough to have easy access for shared reading and interactive writing. I spent today trying to figure out how best to maximize my space so that I can have the word wall as the backdrop to all our literacy activities. I *think* I settled on a layout. It's not perfect, but it will allow me to do interactive writing and shared reading right next to the word wall. Hopefully it will strengthen my kids understanding of how words work.

Today's attempt at arranging. The word wall will go next to the smartboard. More pictures coming....

1 comment:

Sneaker Teacher said...

I am feeling the same way as you. Last year the words on my word wall were combined with my wall alphabet and the words were SO high. What five year old could even see them? This year I lowered the alphabet letters a lot and plan to put the sight words below so that they are on students' eye level. We have TONS of sight words to learn this year with our new reading curriculum (87 in Kinder to be exact), so they need to be visible and easily accessible.